Paradoxes of Constitutionalisation: Lessons from Poland

This comment aims to explain a number of paradoxes of constitutionalization on the example of the current constitutional crisis in Poland. It attempts to demonstrate that this crisis is not only political in its nature, but structural as it results from the inherent tension between the concept of rule of law, democracy and human rights. It is also argued that the success of constitutionalization as a global project depends on strong social endorsement of constitutional institutions and practices, including judicial review.

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“Emergency Constitutional Review”: thinking the unthinkable? A Letter from America

With the constitution and the rule of law in Poland under systemic attack and the Constitutional Court weakened by the refusal of the government to publish its decisions, ordinary judges should step in and, if need be, declare unconstitutional laws inapplicable by themselves. An example for this sort of emergency constitutional review has already been set by the Polish Supreme Court in a decision of March 17th.

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The Power of the Rule of Law: The Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s Forceful Reaction

On 9th March ‒ just two days before the Venice Commission adopted its opinion on the same matter ‒ the Polish Constitutional Tribunal announced its judgment on the statute of 22nd December 2015 amending the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal. This legislative move resembled nothing less than a constitutional coup d’etat against the Polish judiciary and the constitutional state. Fortunately this assault encountered a forceful reaction of its designated target, the Tribunal itself. With the probably most important and in its substance most extraordinary ruling since its establishment thirty years ago the Court asserts itself as the guardian of the Polish constitution. The Court’s reasoning – widely applauded by legal scholars and practitioners – evidences one central point: The Tribunal proved to be a strong opponent within the power play of Kaczyński and its arsenal of puppets holding key public offices.

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Poland, Hungary and Europe: Pre-Article 7 Hopes and Concerns

The European Commission’s opening of a rule of law dialogue with Poland in the new pre-Article 7 format developed last year is an important test of European constitutionalism both on the EU and on the Member State level. The mechanism is meant to address systemic violations of the rule of law in several steps, in the format of a structured dialogue. The new procedure does not preclude or prevent the launching of an infringement procedure by the Commission. The probe into Poland’s measures against the Constitutional Tribunal and its new media regulation is expected to test the viability of an EU constitutional enforcement mechanism against a Member State.

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Aus Anlass Polens: einige Überlegungen zum Recht auf Widerstand

Ab heute ist es amtlich: Die Mittel, zu denen Polens Regierung, Präsident und Parlamentsmehrheit im Konflikt mit dem polnischen Verfassungsgericht gegriffen haben, sind nicht einfach nur ein Verfassungsverstoß. Das ist ein Angriff auf die Grundlagen der Verfassungsstaatlichkeit selbst – auf Rechtsstaatlichkeit, Demokratie und Menschenrechte. Wäre eine Konstellation, wie sie im Augenblick in Polen zu finden ist, ein Anwendungsfall für ein Art. 20 Abs. 4 Grundgesetz entsprechendes Recht auf Widerstand? Mir scheint, das wäre sie – wenn die polnische Regierung sich dem Gutachten der Venedig-Kommission nicht beugt.

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The Polish Constitutional Crisis and “Politics of Paranoia”

Thanks to the growing interest in the “Polish case”, Europe should now have a clear legal understanding of what is going on in Poland and of the motives of the government: the systemic repudiation of some of the fundamental principles of Polish constitutional order, rule of law, legality, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, supremacy of the Constitution and the monopoly of constitutional review.

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Opposition? Gibt’s bei uns nicht.

Opposition und Meinungsvielfalt, Konkurrenz und Kontroverse, Politik als robustes Ringen um wechselnde Mehrheiten und konzeptionelle Alternativen – dass eine gesunde Demokratie so etwas notwendig zum Gedeihen braucht, haben wir alle in der Schule gelernt. Heute stand das Thema Opposition in Karlsruhe auf der Agenda. Die Erkenntnis des Tages: Opposition gibt es in Deutschland nicht nur faktisch nicht. Sondern auch rechtlich.

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Polish Constitutional crisis goes to Europe – or does it?

The latest move by the Polish government in its attempt to disembowel the Constitutional Court looks, on first sight, like a conciliatory gesture: The Minister of Foreign Affairs has submitted two proposals amending the Act on the Constitutional Court to examination by the Venice Commission, the expert body on constitutional issues of the Council of Europe. Does this turn to Europe signal a change of heart in the revolutionary zeal on the part of the Polish government? Not so fast. On closer inspection, the request appears conspicuously ambiguous. The motion does not even specify in sufficient detail what text(s) the Venice Commission is to provide its opinion on.

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Chess-boxing around the Rule of Law: Polish Constitutionalism at Trial

In the conflict between the Polish government and the constitutional court, we are watching a sort of chess-boxing, a hybrid game consisting of rounds in chess and boxing, where the parties attempt to outsmart the opponent and if this doesn’t help, they simply punch. Contravention of the division of powers and disregard for the idea of limited government has repeatedly been perpetrated by the ruling party Law & Justice and “their” President Duda. It remains to be seen if the attempts made are understood by the perpetrators as a tool to facilitate party’s short-term objectives or as an ultimate goal to redesign Poland’s institutional order.

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“Court-packing” in Warsaw: The Plot Thickens

The wheels of Polish constitutional upheaval keep rolling relentlessly and in one direction – to the full dismantling and paralyzing the Constitutional Court and all it stands for. However, it is not just the tempo itself of the legislative process that is out of ordinary, but the ruthlessness with which the new majority carries out its plan. A new chapter in obliterating the Court was added on 15th of December, 2015 when the majority came forward with a draft of the amendments to the Law on the Constitutional Court.

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