POSTS BY Kim Lane Scheppele

Is the Rule of Law Too Vague a Notion?

Is the rule of law too vague a notion to be enforced by the EU against its Member States? Discussing possible sanctions against Poland over its rule of law issues, the Bulgarian prime minister recently claimed that the rule of law is too “vague” to be measured before adding: “Every time you want to hurt someone’s feelings, you put [on the table] ‘the rule of law’.”

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The European Commission’s Activation of Article 7: Better Late than Never?

On Wednesday, the European Commission reacted to the continuing deterioration of the rule of law situation in Poland. The remaining question, of course, is why this argument has been used in the context of 7(1) as opposed of 7(2) given that the situation on the ground in Poland is clearly – in the view of the Commission, the Venice Commission and countless other actors – one of clear and persistent breach of values, as opposed to a threat thereof. The explanation might lie beyond the simple difficulty of the procedural requirements related to the sanctioning stage.

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Poland and the European Commission, Part III: Requiem for the Rule of Law

On 20 February 2017, the Polish government has replied to the European Commission’s rule of law findings. That reply is so clearly absurd, rude and full of ‘alternative facts’ that the case to trigger the sanction mechanism in Art 7 TEU promptly is more compelling than ever. It is time for Member State governments to get their act together and make explicit their disapproval of a government that finds it acceptable not only to violate its national Constitution and EU values in plain sight but also to bully and disrespect EU representatives such as Frans Timmermans and Donald Tusk.

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Poland and the European Commission, Part II: Hearing the Siren Song of the Rule of Law

As Poland has careened away from the rule of law, the European Commission has struggled to work out its response. Given Europe’s multiple crises at the moment, the internal affairs of a rogue government or two may seem less critical to Europe’s well being than crises that affect multiple states at the same time, like the refugee crisis, the Euro-crisis or the fallout from Brexit. But the proliferation of governments inside the EU that no longer share basic European values undermines the reason for existence of the EU in the first place.

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Poland and the European Commission, Part I: A Dialogue of the Deaf?

On 21 December 2016, the European Commission adopted an additional Recommendation regarding the rule of law in Poland. Rather than starting the Article 7 sanctioning process, the Commission merely reiterated its old demands, added some new concerns and again held out the threat of Article 7 while apparently moving no closer to actually starting a sanctioning process. It is not that the Commission was unaware of what was happening in Poland. In December, the Commission stood by and watched the Polish government capture the Constitutional Tribunal. The new Recommendation indicates that the Commission simply chose not to act to head off the final stages of the Tribunal’s demise.

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The EU and Poland: Giving up on the Rule of Law?

With an off-hand remark in a Belgian newspaper, President Juncker has called off the EU Commission’s effort to pressure Poland into following the rule of law. If he went through with this, he would not only pull the rug from under his own First Vice President Timmermans and spare the national governments the necessity to live up to their responsibilities. The Commission President deciding that the slide of a member state into authoritarianism is not his business, with a Trump Presidency in the US coming, forgoes the European Union’s claim to be capable of fulfilling its leadership role in the world.

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