02 Dezember 2021
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VerfassungsPod #2: EU v. Polen

Der Konflikt zwischen der EU und Polen ist bereits viel weiter eskaliert, als man bis vor kurzem für vorstellbar gehalten hätte. Und immer noch ist kein Ende in Sicht. Aus dem innerpolnischen Verfassungskonflikt um Rechtsstaat und unabhängige Justiz ist ein europäischer Verfassungskonflikt um den Vorrang des EU-Rechts geworden. Wie konnte das passieren? Was für Kräfte sind da am Werk? Und wie kommen wir da wieder heraus? Continue reading >>
01 Dezember 2021

Das Damoklesschwert über der europäischen Rechtsordnung

Am 16. November fand vor der Großen Kammer des EuGH die mündliche Verhandlung im Verfahren C-562/21 PPU statt. Es ging um den europäischen Haftbefehl in Zusammenhang mit der Rechtsstaatlichkeit in Polen – einen europarechtlichen Dauerbrenner. Wie alle Fälle mit Bezug zur Rechtsstaatlichkeit in Polen hat auch dieser wieder einmal große politische Brisanz. Dennoch fand das Verfahren in der Öffentlichkeit relativ wenig Beachtung. Der EuGH könnte dabei wegen der langen Inaktivität der politischen Akteur:innen im Konflikt mit Polen und auch aufgrund seiner jüngsten Rechtsstaatsrechtsprechung eine tragische Rolle spielen, die sich aus der starken Verrechtlichung des Konflikts um die Rechtsstaatlichkeit ergibt. Continue reading >>
30 November 2021

A Blatant Attack on Free Media

In a recent and shocking judgment of the first instance, a criminal court in Warsaw has found the Polish journalist Ewa Siedlecka guilty of criminal libel (defamation) for commenting on the organized campaign  of hatred against independent Polish judges. This account deeply resonates with my own personal experience. Toutes proportions gardeés, I should add, since Ms Siedlecka has done immeasurably more for the rule of law in Poland than I did, and has run much higher risks – and incurred higher personal costs. Continue reading >>
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29 November 2021

Military Actions on Dubious Legal Bases

For months, thousands of migrants from Middle Eastern countries attempted to enter Poland threatened by Belarusian troops. As a reaction, Poland has deployed substantial forces to counter the immigration influx, using the Border Guards along with police and military personnel. Thousands of Polish soldiers have been operating on the border with Belarus. There is, however, no published legal basis for these police-like interventions undertaken by military personnel. The spokesman of the Polish Territorial Defence Forces (WOT) cited an old act of the President on 28th of November, which is not in force anymore as it got repealed in June 2020. Continue reading >>
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The Honest (though Embarrassing) Coming-out of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal

The particular coming-out of the Tribunal, made in the judgment K 6/21 by admitting that the Constitutional Tribunal is not subject in general to the standards inherent in Article 6 EC, leads to the conclusion that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal and its judges need not be independent. Paradoxically, therefore, the judgment confirms (albeit by different reasoning) the disqualification of the Tribunal made in the Xero Flor judgment by ECtHR. And yet the Tribunal intended to remove the negative consequences for itself of the Xero Flor.  Continue reading >>
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23 November 2021
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On A Road to Nowhere

On Wednesday 24 November the Polish Constitutional Tribunal will, once again, review the extent to which existing international legal obligations, that were freely entered into by the Republic of Poland, are actually compatible with the Polish Constitution. Continue reading >>
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19 November 2021

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The natural reaction of lawyers to even the most complex legal challenges is the readiness to submit realistic, lawful proposals for solutions. In the case of the Polish-Belarusian border  crisis however, lawyers being ignored, deprived of access to their clients (who have managed to hand over the powers of attorney certificates) or even intimidated, experience different feelings as well, those of helplessness and dread. Almost every element of the Polish government's actions towards the crisis on the border is frightening. At the same time, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the situation of the dehumanized, compelled migrants who were drawn into this conflict not entirely of their own free will. Continue reading >>
17 November 2021

Towards Gilead

Just over one year ago, the Constitutional Court (CC) of Poland banned abortion in cases of fetal malformations. The implications of the ruling are much more far-reaching than the actual abortion ban itself since the ruling, by its reasoning, gave green light for further actions limiting abortion laws. While women all over Poland are afraid to get pregnant, the ruling party and fundamentalist organizations take further legislative action to increase punishment for abortion. Step by step Poland is beginning to resemble Gilead Republic, the infamous patriarchal theocracy from Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale". Continue reading >>
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12 November 2021

Plaumann and the Rule of Law

Most recently, the CJEU sanctioned Poland with daily penalty payments for failing to suspend the operation of its Supreme Court’s disciplinary chamber. The disciplinary chamber’s interference with the independence of judges can have a profound impact on the preliminary reference mechanism as a means for individuals to seek the review of EU law. This must be addressed to safeguard the right to an effective legal remedy under Article 47 CFREU. One possible response may be to modify the Plaumann-test insofar as necessary to protect the functioning of the EU’s ‘complete system of legal remedies’. Continue reading >>
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11 November 2021

(Il-)Legal Gymnastics by Poland and Hungary in EU Border Procedures

This week, Poland has made headlines yet again for dispatching 12,000 guards to the border between Poland and Belarus and the use of tear gas to prevent third country nationals (TCNs), including children, from crossing into Polish territory. It is acutely problematic that Poland has foregone any semblance of conformity with EU law at all in the adoption of its domestic legislation on border procedures. Continue reading >>
09 November 2021

Stating the Obvious

On September 16th, the ECtHR has ruled in the case X v. Poland that the denial of custody of a child must not be based on the sexual orientation of a parent. According to the Court, Poland has violated Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention of Human Rights when refusing the applicant full parental rights and custody of her youngest child. This ruling comes too late for the applicant, whose child has grown up, as the decision of the ECtHR took twelve years. Neverthelesess, in the current Polish context, the finding of the Court on this case sends an important message. Continue reading >>
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04 November 2021

A More Complex Union

Based on the new legal history of European integration that has come out over the last decade, I will offer a different interpretation of the role of law in the EU than the one typically offered by legal scholarship. The central conclusion is that there is an unresolved tension in the relationship between law and politics in the EU that will most likely shape the Union’s response to the Polish crisis. To conclude, I will offer several alternative scenarios of how the EU may react to the Polish crisis. Continue reading >>
03 November 2021

A(nother) lost opportunity?

The October meeting of the European Council (EUCO) was its first occasion to react to the declaration by the Polish “Constitutional Tribunal” that several provisions of the Treaty on European Union are incompatible with Poland’s Constitution and consequently inapplicable to the country. The express denunciation of fundamental provisions of EU primary law by one of its members (with the support of another), while insisting on his country remaining part of the Union, is a situation the EUCO could hardly overlook. And yet, not a word about the unfolding constitutional crisis was included in the EUCO Conclusions. Various elements may explain the restraint. However, the complete muteness from the EU crisis-manager-in-chief is more questionable and may carry a disquieting message. Continue reading >>
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Exclusion from the EU is Possible as a Last Resort

On 7 October 2021, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal issued a decision that can only be compared to setting off a bomb. Only integrationist dream-walkers could take the position that there is no legal possibility to withdraw the status of EU membership from an EU member state that permanently disregards the conditions of membership. Continue reading >>
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02 November 2021

No Surrender to Poland

Last week, a district court in Norway took a bold step and refused surrender to Poland due to the “significant greater danger and probability” that a Polish court would not be a lawful judge. In the European battle over the independence of Polish courts, surrender of wanted persons according to the European Arrest Warrant has been a minor but important front. The Vestfold district court's ruling should be welcomed and also invites the Norwegian Supreme Court and the CJEU to change their jurisprudence on surrender to Poland. Continue reading >>

Ein Ausschluss aus der EU ist als Ultima-Ratio-Maßnahme möglich

Am 7. Oktober 2021 hat das polnische Verfassungsgericht eine Entscheidung erlassen, die sich nur mit dem Zünden einer Bombe vergleichen lässt. Nur integrationspolitische Traumwandler könnten die Position zu vertreten, dass es keine rechtliche Möglichkeit gibt, einen EU-Mitgliedstaat, der die Mitgliedschaftsbedingungen dauerhaft missachtet, den Status zu entziehen. Continue reading >>
29 Oktober 2021

Warum das Zwangsgeld gegen Polen die Glaubwürdigkeit der EU stärken wird

Am 27. Oktober 2021 verhängte der EuGH ein Strafgeld in Höhe von 1 Million Euro pro Tag gegen Polen, weil sich der Staat bisher konsequent geweigert hatte, die einstweiligen Anordnungen im Rahmen des jüngsten Vertragsverletzungsverfahrens zu befolgen. Dass die EU zu diesem drastischen Mittel greift, verleiht ihr im zähen Ringen um wirksame Maßnahmen gegen Polen Glaubwürdigkeit und könnte langfristig eine Abkehr von politisch ausgehandelten Sanktionen einläuten. Continue reading >>
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The Deadly Woods

Since August 2021, hundreds of people have attempted, and many have succeeded, to irregularly cross the border from Belarus to Poland. In retaliation, they are pushed back to Belarus by Polish authorities and then forced to cross back to Poland by Belarusian authorities. Forced to repeatedly wander in minus temperatures through thick woods, many persons have been seriously injured and at least several have died. As of the end of October 2021, there are two parallel frameworks legalizing pushbacks in Poland. Continue reading >>
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28 Oktober 2021

Die andere Rechtsstaatlichkeitskrise

An der polnisch-belarussischen Grenze spielt sich ein Drama der Rechtsmissachtung ab,  inzwischen mit mehreren Toten. Es ist dies die andere, leisere Rechtsstaatlichkeitskrise: die des entgegen klarer Vorgaben des Unionsrechts verweigerten Zugangs zu einem Asylverfahren; die der wiederholten Missachtung von einstweiligen Anordnungen des Europäischen Gerichtshofs für Menschenrechte (EGMR). Continue reading >>
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27 Oktober 2021
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This Was Not Just Another Ultra Vires Judgment!

A few days ago, 27 retired judges of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal have issued a statement concerning the judgment K 3/21 of 7 October 2021. We are both among its signatories. With this article, we hope to contribute to the clarification of the false statements contained in that judgment, its oral explanations and statements of representatives of political authorities, regarding the difficult matters of coexistence of Polish law and European Union law. Continue reading >>
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15 Oktober 2021

Nach der Explosion

Die Fallout-Wolke verdunkelt den Himmel über uns, und wo sie sich entladen wird, weiß nur der Wind.   Continue reading >>
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After the Explosion

The fallout cloud darkens the sky above us, and only the wind knows where it will unload its noxious cargo.   Continue reading >>
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Resolution No. 04/2021

of the Committee of Legal Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences of October 12, 2021 in regard to the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal of October 7, 2021 Continue reading >>
14 Oktober 2021

Historische Zäsur für den Rechtsstaat

Die zweitägige mündliche Verhandlung zu den Klagen von Ungarn und Polen gegen den sog. „Rechtsstaatsmechanismus“ war eine Zäsur für den europäischen Rechtsstaat und die Geschichte Europas: Die gesamte Verhandlung stand im Schatten des jüngsten „Urteils“ des „polnischen Verfassungsgerichts“, das sich weigert, Entscheidungen des Europäischen Gerichtshofs umzusetzen. Noch nie hat Polen die Geltung der Grundsätze der Rechtsstaatlichkeit mit solcher Vehemenz und solchem Eigensinn bestritten, wie es im Verlauf dieser Verhandlung sichtbar wurde. Man konnte der Europäischen Union bei ihrem Zerriss zuschauen. Continue reading >>

A Closing of Ranks

On 11 and 12 October the Court of Justice of the European Union sat in Full Court composition (a rarity) to hear Hungary’s and Poland’s challenge of the legality of the rule of law conditionality regulation. Its ruling will follow (hopefully shortly) the Advocate-General’s Opinion announced for 2 December 2021. It will most likely reconfirm that the Union legal order is based on clear and binding rule of law norms, and that these must, of legal necessity, apply across all EU policy fields, including the EU budget. It will be a judgment of great significance about the very nature and purpose of the EU. Continue reading >>
13 Oktober 2021

Sealed, Stamped and Delivered

By publishing the judgement K 3/21 of the Constitutional Tribunal of 7 October 2021 in Poland’s official journal, the Polish government has notified the European Council of the decision of the Republic of Poland to leave the Union. To avoid the serious consequences this entails for its citizens, Poland has two options. Continue reading >>
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12 Oktober 2021

Gazing into the Abyss

On Thursday 7th October 2021 the Polish Constitutional Tribunal issued its decision in the case K 3/21. Politically, this situation is likely a crucial point in the Polish rule of law saga. Legally, it is a decision taken by a not independent court that ignored both domestic provisions and EU law towards arriving at a politically motivated outcome tailored towards the interests of the ruling party. Continue reading >>
11 Oktober 2021

Statement of Retired Judges of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal

On 7 October 2021, the Constitutional Tribunal issued a judgment in case K 3/21 concerning the place of EU law in the Polish legal order. The judgment caused great public concern due to its foreseeable devastating consequences for the position of the Republic of Poland as a Member State of the European Union. The retired judges of the Constitutional Tribunal fully share this concern. In addition, however, they consider it their duty to correct the many false assertions contained in the judgment, its oral reasoning and the comments of representatives of political power. Continue reading >>
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Resisting Membership Fatalism

While we fully agree with the main thrust of the editorial ‘The Exit Door’ on Verfassungsblog last Friday, we would like to warn against its seemingly fatalistic mindset. Yes, a Polexit from the EU is not on the table until the Polish government itself pushes the Article 50 TEU button, but the other EU Member States do not have to idly wait ‘hoping’ for a resolution to the crisis. Continue reading >>
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10 Oktober 2021

Whoever equates Karlsruhe to Warsaw is wildly mistaken

In the Polish, and to some extent also in the German public discourse, the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court of 5 May 2020 on the partial unconstitutionality of the ECB's PSP programme is considered to be qualitatively comparable to the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal of 7 October 2021. In this respect, the Polish judgement is merely seen as a continuation of the established case law of the Bundesverfassungsgericht. From a legal point of view, however, this is clearly false. Continue reading >>

Wer Karlsruhe mit Warschau gleichsetzt, irrt sich gewaltig

Im polnischen, partiell aber auch im deutschen Diskurs wird das Urteil des Bundesverfassungsgerichts vom 5.5.2020 zur partiellen Verfassungswidrigkeit des PSP-Programms der EZB als qualitativ vergleichbar mit dem Urteil des polnischen Verfassungsgerichts vom 7.10.2021 eingestuft. Das polnische Urteil knüpfe insoweit lediglich an die gefestigte Rechtsprechung des BVerfG an. Dem ist aus juristischer Sicht aus verschiedenen Gründen deutlich zu widersprechen. Continue reading >>
08 Oktober 2021

Die Tür nach draußen

Nur Polen kann Polen aus der EU werfen. Oder drinbehalten. Continue reading >>
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The Exit Door

Only Poland can take Poland out of the EU. Or keep it in. Continue reading >>
17 September 2021

How Much Money is a Lot of Money?

On 7 September 2021, the European Commission announced that it will ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to impose financial penalties on Poland for not complying with the Court’s order for interim measures of 14 July 2021 regarding its Disciplinary Chamber. The Commission must be able to threat the member state in question not only credibly, but also with amounts that are high enough to deter them from continuing on their rule-of-law-breaching-path. Continue reading >>
26 August 2021
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The EU’s Face in Łukašenka’s Mirror

On the Polish-Belarusian border thirty-two Afghan citizens have been sitting quite literally between the Belarusian border guards on the one side and Polish border guards, army and police on the other for two weeks now. They sit there without access to water, food or medical aid. They sit there claiming their rights under EU and International law. Yet, they are not allowed to ask for asylum or establish any contact with the outside world. The tragic situation of those thirty-two hostages exemplifies both how devastating the consequences of rule-of-law backsliding might be and how closely linked the rule of law breakdown in Poland and the general denigration of EU values in the field of migration are. Continue reading >>
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16 August 2021

Poland and Europe at a Critical Juncture. What has happened? What is happening? What’s next?

The European institutions must be able to protect the European narrative in Poland because this is what most Poles expect of the EU. And with each passing day, the frustration and the discouragement set in because people see and read about the ECJ decisions and see nothing tangible happen. And then they ask the most dramatic of questions: What does Europe mean for us? This is a critical and dramatic juncture because Europe must not afford losing the support of Polish citizenry. Therefore, Brussels must stop considering the Polish case as a mere problem of bad governance of yet another recalcitrant member state. It would serve European leaders well to finally recognize the constitutional stakes involved and enforce all these in the name of Europe and its citizens. Continue reading >>
15 August 2021

The Lex TVN and the End of Free Media in Poland

Law & Justice, the ruling party in Poland, plans to reform the media by introducing restrictions on ownership of TV and radio broadcast companies. Entities from outside the European Economic Area (“EEA”) may not, under the proposed law, control more than 49% of shares in such companies. This pertains both to holding shares directly and indirectly, via companies established in the EEA. If the law will ultimately enter into force is still uncertain. If it does, though, it will deliver a serious blow to, already weakened, free media in Poland. Continue reading >>
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11 August 2021

The Disciplinary Chamber May Go – but the Rotten System will Stay

The notorious Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, unlawful under EU standards according to the European Court of Justice, will be abolished. The Disciplinary Chamber is perhaps the most abhorrent part of the system, but it is not the entire system. Systemic and ongoing persecution and harassment of independent judges may easily continue, and most probably will. No one should be duped by such a pars-pro-toto solution because, unless and until a broader change is introduced, it will remain a purely PR exercise, meant to reassure Brussels that the Recovery money should now be disbursed to Poland. Continue reading >>
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29 Juli 2021

Hundreds of judges appointed in violation of the ECHR?

On 22 July 2021, the European Court of Human Rights issued its third judgment concerning the rule of law crisis in Poland. In Reczkowicz v. Poland the Court ruled that the Disciplinary Chamber which dismissed the cassation complaint of the applicant did not meet the standard of a “right to a court established by law” guaranteed under Article 6 § 1 the Convention. The judgment is important not only because the ECtHR reviewed the status of the Disciplinary Chamber – a controversial body that was also the subject of a recent CJEU judgment – but also because it seems that the reasoning of the Court can be applied to hundreds of other newly appointed judges. Continue reading >>
28 Juli 2021
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How Not to Deal with Poland’s Fake Judges’ Requests for a Preliminary Ruling

In his Opinion of 8 July 2021 in Case C-132/20 Getin Noble Bank, AG Bobek advised the Court of Justice to find admissible a national request for a preliminary ruling originating from an individual who was appointed to Poland’s Supreme Court on the back of manifest and grave irregularities. In this specific case, contrary to the position of AG Bobek, we submit that the ECJ must find the request inadmissible as the referring individual cannot be considered a tribunal established by law. Continue reading >>
20 Juli 2021

Protecting Polish Judges from Political Control

After many years of judicial “reforms”, Kaczyński’s Poland may soon become the EU’s second authoritarian Member State, even as the European Court of Justice increasingly attempted to deal with different aspects of Kaczyński’s multi-pronged attacks on judicial independence. In Case C-791/19, the found the new disciplinary regime for Polish judges to be incompatible with EU law while in Case C-204/21 R, the Vice-President of the ECJ ordered the immediate suspension of the application of the legislative provisions governing the jurisdiction of the infamous “Disciplinary Chamber”. Continue reading >>
19 Juli 2021

Polexit or judicial dialogue?

In the world of EU law, Poland and the rule of law, it was a wild third week of July. A series of events unfolded in Warsaw and Luxembourg, adding to the saga of Polish rule of law travails before courts. All levels of Polish government and bodies controlled by the ruling party have decried CJEU interim orders and judgments, indicating a complete lack of will to comply with EU law and CJEU rulings. Is a "Polexit" looming? Continue reading >>
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14 Juli 2021

An Appeal to Polish Authorities

On 23 June, Bartosz Kramek, a Polish activist and the Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), a Poland-based international NGO on the frontlines of the fight for the rule of law in the country, was arrested by he Internal Security Agency. Mr Kramek is currently under unconditional pre-trial detention. The court approved placing him under detention with a bail of 300,000 PLN to be delivered by 8 July 2021. The prosecutor filed an objection, which means that, irrespective of the payment, Mr Kramek will not be released until the court’s decision becomes final, that is, until the second-instance court examines the prosecutor’s appeal. If the court agrees, a well-known government critic and civic activist will be put behind bars for at least 3 months, making him a political prisoner in an EU Member State. Continue reading >>
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29 Juni 2021

Too little, too late

A few weeks after the ECtHR first stepped into the ring for the fight against rule of law backsliding in Poland via its Xero Flor judgment, it has now dealt a new blow to the Polish judicial reforms. In its Broda and Bojara ruling, the issue at hand was not the composition of the Constitutional Court, but the termination of judges’ mandates as court (vice) president. In its judgment, the Court showed once more its commitment to the safeguarding of domestic judges and the procedural protection they should enjoy. Yet, one can wonder whether the judgment will really have an impact and if it is not too little too late. Continue reading >>
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18 Juni 2021

“Non-Existent”

Last Tuesday, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal delivered a ruling which makes the extent of the crisis of the rule of law in Poland unambiguously clear. And it shows how the gap with Europe is widening day by day. If the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe lets this pass, it will not only be a blow to the authority and effectiveness of the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights. Then the guardians of the rule of law will have surrendered even faster than we thought. Continue reading >>
30 Mai 2021

Good European Neighbours

On 21 May 2021 the Vice-President of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Ms Rosario Silva de Lapuerta granted interim measures in the case of Czech Republic v Poland, ordering Poland to immediately cease lignite extraction activities in the Turów mine.  An action against a Member State which might have breached an EU directive – in this case by extending a lignite mining permit without carrying out an environmental impact assessment – may seem like an ordinary environmental case falling under the remit of EU law. The Czech Republic v Poland case, however, is anything but ordinary for at least two reasons. Continue reading >>
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28 Mai 2021

Borders

On Zittau, environmental impact and what we can get used to and what not Continue reading >>
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Grenzen

Über Zittau, Umweltverträglichkeitsprüfungen und woran wir uns gewöhnen können und woran nicht Continue reading >>
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21 Mai 2021

Dance of Courts

State, federal and EU constitutional law and the emergence of black holes on the legal map of Europe Continue reading >>
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Tanz der Gerichte

Länder-, Bundes- und EU-Verfassungsrecht und das Auftauchen von schwarzen Löchern auf der Landkarte Europas Continue reading >>
10 Mai 2021

The ECtHR Steps into the Ring

For the last two years, the fight for safeguarding the principle of the rule of law in Poland has been dominated by the ECJ’s case law. During this, the Strasbourg Court has mostly been sitting in the bleachers. Yet, with its Xero Flor judgment of 7 May, it strapped on its gloves and stepped into the ring. It concluded that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, in its current composition, cannot be seen as a tribunal established by law. The decision will undoubtedly have major political and legal consequences. Continue reading >>
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09 Mai 2021

What Should and What Will Happen After Xero Flor

On 7 May 2021, the European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment in a case concerning irregularities in the personal composition of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. The ECtHR found a violation of “the right to a tribunal established by law” due to fact that the decision on the discontinuation of the proceedings concerning a constitutional complaint filed by a Polish company was issued by the Constitutional Tribunal with the participation of a person who was unlawfully elected to the position of judge. The said judgment is the first ruling of an international body finding that the irregularities in the functioning of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal violate international law. Continue reading >>
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28 April 2021
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Solving the Copenhagen Dilemma

By proclaiming an entirely new ‘non-regression’ principle in EU law based on the connection between Articles 49 TEU (EU Enlargement) and 2 TEU (EU values, referred to from Art. 49), the Court of Justice achieved huge progress in addressing a well-known lacuna undermining the EU legal order. The ‘non-regression’ principle is a new important direction in the notable fight for the EU rule of law started with the discovery of EU competence in, in particular, the area of judicial independence and the organization of the judiciaries in the EU Member States. Continue reading >>
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How the EU is Becoming a Rule-of-Law-less Union of States

The most recent attempt by Poland's executive to undermine the very foundations of the Union legal order speaks volumes about how far the politics of resentment have come since 2015. With the Constitutional Tribunal about to hand the government its desired excuse to ignore interim measures of the Court of Justice of the European Union, a point of no return might have been reached. This new phase sees the dismantling of the rule of law on the domestic front being reinforced, aided and abetted now by the legitimizing inaction and/or spineless bargaining at … the supranational level. The EU through its institutions is playing the game according to the rules dictated by the smart autocrats. Continue reading >>
27 April 2021

Bad Tandem

With its ruling of 15 April 2021, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal willingly accepts the role of substitute lawmaker. The result is an inelegant, clumsy judgment that creates more problems than it solves. The Constitutional Court as the executor of the parliamentary majority destroys not only its reputation but also the purpose of the negative legislator. In the case of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the solution of a political problem is once again transferred to the Constitutional Court. Continue reading >>
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03 April 2021

From Captured State to Captive Mind

Finding two history professors guilty of allegedly defaming the good name of an individual by researching his alleged role in the Holocaust must not be treated as yet another run-of-the-mill litigation instigated by a relative concerned about a tarnished good name. Rather, Poland seems to be entering an unchartered territory of settling the score by way of the long arm of the law. The sacred dignity of the Polish nation hidden under the convenient argument from protecting the “good name” of individuals takes center stage and overshadows the need to have a robust historical discourse. Continue reading >>
29 März 2021

Intimidation through Litigation

Last week, legal proceedings were initiated against a Polish writer as well as a couple of high school students for allegedly insulting Polish President Andrzej Duda. These proceedings are just the latest examples of how Polish authorities or their allies attempt to intimidate and silence critics by means of litigation. Continue reading >>
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28 März 2021
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A Letter to the European Commission

Further to the letter of December 2020, endorsed by more than 5,000 judges and prosecutors of the Member States, we, the representatives of Polish civil society organisations and European scholars specialising in EU law and human rights, are writing to you once again in connection with the worsening rule of law crisis in Poland. We have now reached a stage where independent judges seeking to apply EU law and the Court of Justice’s judgments are threatened with abusive criminal charges and coercive measures. We urge you therefore to urgently adopt concrete legal measures to prevent the further destruction of the rule of law in Poland. Continue reading >>
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24 März 2021

The New Normal? – Emergency Measures in Response to the Second COVID-19 Wave in Poland

This post will cover four core areas of legal concern regarding the Polish response to COVID-19 across the last few months. First of them is the continued issue of legality of the measures used. Second is the issue of transparency and clarity of the measures employed with a particular look at the issue of exiting the emergency. Third is the matter of judicial oversight and the role of Polish courts during the pandemic. Fourth issue pertains to the convergence between the challenges brought about by the pandemic and the continued backsliding of the rule of law and erosion of human rights in Poland. Continue reading >>
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11 März 2021

Historians on Trial

On 9 February 2021, the District Court in Warsaw ruled that two prominent Holocaust researchers must publicly apologize for statements published in a book about the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany-occupied Poland during the Second World War. The lawsuit is an example of strategic litigation aimed at intimidating researchers and exercising a chilling effect on the debate in Poland due to the involvement of an organization close to the government and framing of the case in pro-government public and private media. In March, courts in Poland handed judgments in two other important strategic lawsuits brought on criminal charges. Continue reading >>
03 März 2021
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Corona Constitutional #56: Wer gewinnt?

EU-Mitgliedstaaten, die ihre Justiz unterjochen, verletzen EU-Recht: das hat der EuGH in Luxemburg mit seinem gestrigen Urteil zum polnischen Nationalen Justizrat kraftvoll deutlich gemacht. Die PiS-Regierung in Polen darf nicht einfach den Rechtsbehelf gegen Entscheidungen des von ihr kontrollierten Justizrat mit einem gesetzgeberischen Federstrich abschaffen. Der Kanal zwischen unabhängigen polnischen Gerichten und dem EuGH muss offen bleiben – und gleichzeitig versucht die PiS verzweifelt, diesen Kanal zuzustopfen. Wer wird das Rennen gewinnen? Darüber diskutiert Max Steinbeis heute mit dem Verfassungsrechtsprofessor WOJCIECH SADURSKI von der Universität Sydney. Continue reading >>
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Misjudging Judges

5231 magistrates from all over the EU had signed a letter to call the EU Commission to urgent action regarding the rule of law situation in Poland, Hungary and other member states. Unbelievably, Commissioners Reynders and Jourová, in their reply to the judges’ letter that transpired on 1 March, managed to make matters considerably worse.  Continue reading >>
25 Februar 2021

The EU Parliament’s Abdication on the Rule of Law (Regulation)

To paraphrase a previous blog entry by Scheppele, Pech and Kelemen, if the The Decline and Fall of the European Union is ever written, historians will conclude that not only the EU’s two key intergovernmental institutions – the European Council and the Council – should bear the greatest responsibility for the EU’s demise, but also the EU Parliament. Indeed, by failing to challenge the legality of the EUCO’s December conclusions encroaching upon its own prerogatives, the EU Parliament might have just become an enabler of the ongoing erosion of the rule of law across the Union. Paradoxically, it did so after relying on incomplete and partial opinion of its own legal service advising the Parliament to trade the respect of the rule of law away for political convenience. Continue reading >>
09 Februar 2021

The Enemy Within

It is an oft-forgotten fact that Poland has a coalition government. And it is oft-forgotten for a good reason: the largest of the coalition partners, PiS, carries a plurality of votes in the Parliament as well as the strongest popular support. For most of the time this allows them to suppress or ignore any dissenting voices within the coalition. The coalition arrangement however causes constant tensions. Continue reading >>
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01 Februar 2021

In the EU, it’s the Rule of Law. In Poland, it’s Unconstitutional?

The Polish Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro, in his capacity as Prosecutor General, wants to apply to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal to have the EU regulation connecting the rule of law with the suspension of EU funds declared inconsistent with the Polish constitution. Why is the member of a government that has recently consented to adopting the regulation, now going to fight it? And are there any grounds for doing so? Continue reading >>
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26 Januar 2021

Witch Hunt against 14 Cracow Judges

Judges who have examined cases related to the reinstatement of Prosecutor Mariusz Krasoń have been and are being persecuted for their purely judicial actions. Krasoń called attention to the politicization of the prosecutor’s office in a May 2019 resolution adopted by the Assembly of Prosecutors of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Cracow. As a result he was demoted, harassed, and his workplace was moved around 300 km from his residence. Over the last two months, the Internal Affairs Department of the National Public Prosecutor’s Office has summoned as witnesses 14 judges from five different benches of Cracow’s district, regional and appellate courts. The judges now face potential criminal charges of failure to fulfil obligations as public officials, punishable by up to three years of imprisonment (Art. 231(1) of the Penal Code). Their purported crime? Failing to persecute Prosecutor Krasoń.  Continue reading >>
25 Januar 2021

A Weapon the Government Can Control

In 2020 the degradation of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s position deepened. This stage of the crisis of the constitutional judiciary in Poland can be illustrated with two rulings from 2020 Continue reading >>
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18 Januar 2021
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1825 Days Later: The End of the Rule of Law in Poland (Part II)

On 13 January 2016, exactly five years ago today, the Commission activated the so-called rule of law framework for the very first time with respect to Poland. Ever since, the Polish authorities’ sustained and systematic attacks on the rule of law directly threaten the very functioning of the EU legal order. Part II of this series examines the key rulings of 2020 and urges EU authorities to act. Continue reading >>
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13 Januar 2021
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1825 Days Later: The End of the Rule of Law in Poland (Part I)

On 13 January 2016, exactly five years ago today, the Commission activated the so-called rule of law framework for the very first time with respect to Poland. Ever since, the Polish authorities’ sustained and systematic attacks on the rule of law directly threaten the very functioning of the EU legal order. In what has become an annual series of dire warnings, this is an overview of the 2020 developments regarding the deterioration of the rule of law in Poland. Continue reading >>
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14 Dezember 2020

Towards an EU Cast in the Hungarian and Polish Mould

It is a serious achievement on Hungary’s and Poland’s part to drive EU institutions so far into mocking the rule of law in the spirit of defending it. Then again, this is exactly what illiberal constitutional engineering is about: using familiar constitutional and legal techniques for ends that subvert constitutionalism and the rule of law. Continue reading >>
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Filling the Polish ECtHR judgeship – risking (another) empty seat?

The Polish judgeship at the ECtHR must be filled, as the term of Judge Krzysztof Wojtyczek is due to expire on 31 October 2021. The Polish Government has submitted a list of three candidates. Due to the lack of fairmess, inclusiveness and transparency of the procedure, it is likely that the seat of the Polish judge will remain vacant. Continue reading >>
13 Dezember 2020
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Compromising the Rule of Law while Compromising on the Rule of Law

Some EU leaders may assert that EU money will now be brought under the rule of law given that the Conditionality Regulation is now guaranteed to pass. But they are wrong. Continue reading >>
08 Dezember 2020

Disqualifying Instability

The so-called conditionality mechanism (in other words: "money for the rule of law") provides that breaches of the principle of the rule of law that threaten the EU’s financial interests may lead to suspension of funding. Poland and Hungary oppose this conditionality as they – with good reason – fear that they might be affected by it. What is required not to be subject to this mechanism, however, is quite straightforward and can be reasonably expected by an EU Member State. Continue reading >>
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04 Dezember 2020

Klagen und klagen lassen

Über Mitgliedstaaten, die Mitgliedstaaten verklagen, und andere aktuelle Rechtsstaatlichkeitsthemen Continue reading >>
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Sue and Let Sue

On member states taking member states to court, and other topical rule of law affairs Continue reading >>
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02 Dezember 2020

A New Nail in the Coffin for the 2017 Polish Judicial Reform

On 1 December the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR gave an important ruling that may have wide-reaching implications for the ongoing attempts to curb the rule of law backsliding in Poland and other countries. The case addresses the appointment of judges, and the way this affects the status of a court as a “tribunal established by law” in the meaning of Article 6 of the ECHR. Continue reading >>

A Momentous Day for the Rule of Law

Five Member States led by example by following the Commission’s lead in defending Union law. That is how the EU system was designed to function. Add a simultaneous important ruling of the Strasbourg Court and an unprecedented Dutch parliamentary motion, and this was an important day for rule of law protection in the EU. Continue reading >>
30 November 2020
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Time Is of the Essence

The announced veto of the Hungarian and Polish governments on the EU multi-annual budget and the European recovery fund has caused a major stir in recent days in Europe. The conditionality mechanism is designed to safeguard the Union’s financial interests and complements the existing political and judicial mechanisms. It is expedient to review the state of play of the procedures in place and, if necessary, to pose questions, whether they stand up to the challenges posed by developments in the respective countries, if they are carried out in a timely manner and focus on genuine effectiveness. Continue reading >>
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27 November 2020

From Warsaw with Love

Why the Polish government is wooing German jurists Continue reading >>
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23 November 2020

Die Rückkehr der Jedi-Ritter?

Könnte man die finanziellen Covid-Hilfsmaßnahmen außerhalb des rechtlich-institutionellen Rahmens der EU vereinbaren – ohne Polen und Ungarn? Die Geschichte der europäischen Integration ist immer wieder von intergouvernementaler Zusammenarbeit jenseits des bestehenden Primärrechts vorangetrieben worden. Für die vorliegende Problemlage erscheint eine intergouvernementale Lösung zwar rechtlich möglich, sie erweist sich indessen aus nicht-rechtlichen Gründen als unbefriedigend. Continue reading >>
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20 November 2020

Even in Prison

A message from Judge Igor Tuleya Continue reading >>

Auch im Gefängnis

Eine Nachricht von Richter Igor Tuleya Continue reading >>
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12 November 2020

A Tragic Constitutional Court Judgment on Abortion

Ewa Łętowska examines the Polish Constitutional Court's judgement on abortion and finds that it shows how far the country has moved towards religious and moral fundamentalism. The ruling creates a wobbly, unclear and hypocritical legal state. Continue reading >>
09 November 2020
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Divine Decision-Making

The most recent abortion decision of 22 October 2020 of Poland’s Constitutional Court (“the Court”) did not come as a surprise. It is not, as some commentators would like to see, an aberration, a departure from previous liberal and human rights-based standards by a group of judges linked to the Law and Justice party. Rather, it is a consequence of the right-wing constitutionalism that has dominated the Court for years. This discourse that introduced religious dogma as the basis for legal reasoning is undemocratic and exclusionary. It presents religious worldviews as textual consequences of the constitution without taking into account the voice of citizens. The persistence of this type of constitutionalism can be demonstrated on example of a number of cases important for the public sphere in Poland. Continue reading >>
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08 November 2020

Of Asymmetries, Aspirations and…Values, too

How are the transnational legal order (“TLO”) and transnational governance affected by the democratic backsliding, authoritarianism and populism? As painfully evidenced by the Polish and Hungarian cases, the system of governance and constitutional design of the European TLO have been in error of “normative asymmetry”: transnational authority to ensure that the states remain liberal democracies has not been effectively translated into the transnational law and remedies. In order to make the TLO more responsive to the democratic threats, however, it is crucial to take on the challenges that go beyond institutional and procedural tinkering. Continue reading >>
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04 November 2020

Der Trumpf wird zur Last

In Polen wird gerade sehr deutlich, dass es nicht im politischen Interesse liegt, Gerichte parteipolitisch auszurichten. Seit Jahren beobachtet die Öffentlichkeit entsetzt, wie die Parlamentsmehrheit unter PiS das Ansehen und die Legitimation des Verfassungsgerichts untergräbt. Zunächst, indem sie das Gericht verfassungswidrig besetzte und es, quasi gegen seine Natur, zum Verbündeten der Parlamentsmehrheit machte. Jetzt kommt noch das umstrittene Abtreibungsurteil vom 22. Oktober dazu. Das Kalkül der Regierungspartei scheint jedoch nicht aufgegangen zu sein und die Entscheidung wird für PiS zum politischen Problem. Ignoriert sie das Urteil, wird das „eigene“ Verfassungsgericht geschwächt, setzt sie es um, droht ihr der Machtverlust. Continue reading >>
03 November 2020

Populist but not Popular

After the judgment of the PiS-controlled Constitutional Tribunal, the sharp drop in support for PiS in the latest polls makes the ruling camp try panically to minimize the political losses it has suffered. One symptom of that panic is the fact that the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal has not yet been published. Another is draft law submitted by the PiS-aligned President Duda slightly alleviating the effects of the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal. All this proves how deep the crisis of the rule of law and how blurred the border between law and politics in Poland have become. Continue reading >>
30 Oktober 2020

Weißglut in Warschau

Warum der Protest gegen das "Abtreibungsurteil" weit mehr ist als nur das Continue reading >>

Livid in Warsaw

Why the protests against the "abortion judgment" are a lot more than just that Continue reading >>
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24 Oktober 2020

No more “Business as Usual”

The Polish Constitutional Court (“the Court”), once a proud institution and an effective check on the will of the majority, is now a shell of its former self. It has become a dangerous and unhinged institution that uses the judicial review both as a sword to punish the opponents and to promote the illiberal agenda of the ruling majority. Thursday’s abortion ruling is only the latest example. In these dark days we must always remember the old Constitutional Court and the liberal foundations it had laid for more than twenty years. More crucially, accepting the current constitutional oppression as “business as usual”, will carry the risk of losing the rule of law in Poland for good. Continue reading >>
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A Dubious Judgment by a Dubious Court

On 22 October 2020 Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, dominated by judges appointed under the procedure introduced by the ruling right-wing populist PiS party, has determined that abortion due to foetal defects is unconstitutional, rejecting the most common of the few legal grounds for pregnancy termination. This ruling is very controversial and caused civil disquiet and protests. Continue reading >>
14 Oktober 2020

The Ombudsman before the Polish Constitutional Tribunal

On 9th September 2020, the 5-years term of the current Polish Ombudsman (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich, Commissioner for Human Rights) Adam Bodnar, has ended. The Parliament did not select a new person for this position yet. Thus, following the Article 3.6 of the Law on the Commissioner, Professor Bodnar stays in the office until the appointment of the new Commissioner for Human Rights. However a group of MPs demands the Constitutional Court to delete this legal basis, leaving the office without its head. The Court wants to decide on this case on 20th October. Continue reading >>
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12 Oktober 2020

Constitutional Borrowings, Not Hegemony

The question about the legal hegemony of Germany was raised by comments from lawyers, but also politicians, in connection with the - undoubtedly - controversial decision of the German Constitutional Tribunal in the PSPP case. Armin von Bogdandy’s introduction refers primarily to the problem of the Europeanization of Germany vs. the Germanization of Europe in the context of European integration and Sabino Cassese’s description of “some specific decisions of these more recent EU-specific decisions of the Second Senate of the German Federal Constitutional Court as an attempt to put a German dog leash on European institutions". But it also refers to the past of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the "imposition" of "an enlightened, soft neo-liberalism" on the countries of this region (Bogdan Iancu). In the case of Poland, because Kaczyński’s government seems to be a persecutor against the proceedings which the German jurisprudence provides, "the secret crypt in which the seeds of its spirit will be protected...". (Carl Schmitt). Continue reading >>
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06 Oktober 2020

The Plaintiff who turned into a Prosecutor

Readers of this blog are familiar with how the Polish government, led by the Law and Justice party (PiS) and the institutions it controls, is trying to silence Professor Wojciech Sadurski in a coordinated campaign of lawsuits (see here, here, here and here). On Friday 2 October 2020, he was again in court. This time for his third case: a criminal lawsuit brought by TVP, the public but de facto purely pro-government TV-station. Continue reading >>
01 Oktober 2020
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Today Tuleya, Tomorrow the EU

Igor Tuleya is someone you should know. He is your judge, wherever you live in the EU. More specifically, he is a judge at the District Court in Warsaw. Next Monday, on October 5th 2020, he may lose his judicial immunity as a result of a hearing before the “Disciplinary Chamber” of the Polish Supreme Court. If this happens, he will likely face subsequent criminal charges, and, as a consequence, a very real risk of imprisonment. If this happens, it will affect every independent and impartial judge in Poland. If this happens, it will affect every EU citizen too. Continue reading >>
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30 September 2020
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LawRules #2: We need to talk about Judicial Nominations

It's easy to agree that judicial independence is important – but who gets to be a part of the judiciary, who gets promoted to which court and who enters the highest ranks is a decision that has to be taken by someone, and a lot depends on who that someone is. Controlling judicial nominations is one of the key elements in all authoritarian takeover strategies which have been implemented in recent years in Poland, in Hungary and elsewhere. This is what we will discuss with the president of the European Network of Councils of the Judiciary, a member of the board of the Polish independent judges’ association IUSTITIA, and a German judge at the Bundesgerichtshof. Continue reading >>
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28 September 2020
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Before It’s Too Late

Dear President von der Leyen, in your recent State of the Union address, you rightly emphasized that “breaches of the rule of law cannot be tolerated.” We are sorry to say we are seeing ample evidence to the contrary. Continue reading >>
26 August 2020

Fencing Off the Difference

Public statements of high-ranking politicians expressing hostility towards and disdain of sexual minorities have become common in the recent years in Poland. But the problem of “LGBT-Free Zones” has given the topic a new constitutional quality. Continue reading >>
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03 August 2020

Polexit – Quo vadis, Polonia?

Unkenntnis und Unwille sind in Polen heute an der Tagesordnung: Unkenntnis darüber, wie das europäische Recht und die europäischen Institutionen funktionieren und Unwille, sich an die freiwillig eingegangenen europäischen Verpflichtungen zu halten. Wir sind Zeugen, wie in Polen die Grundprinzipien der EU untergraben werden. Wenn aber das Rechtssystem der EU in Polen nicht mehr wirksam ist, ist das: der Polexit. Die bedenkenlose Säuberung des Obersten Gerichts, schließlich die Aushebelung der Vorabentscheidung, die Einschüchterung der Richter durch Disziplinarverfahren, das alles ist leider bereits der Polexit. Richtig verstanden bedeutet der Polexit allerdings sehr viel mehr als die Nichtanerkennung des europäischen Rechts und die Angriffe auf die Gerichte. Continue reading >>
15 Juli 2020
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Corona Constitutional #44: Was jetzt auf Polen zukommt

Die Präsidentschaftswahl in Polen ist gelaufen, alle haben artig dem Amtsinhaber Andrzej Duda zur zweiten Amtszeit gratuliert, als sei das einfach nur eine demokratische Wahl wie jede andere. Dass sie das nicht war, sondern vielmehr die letzte, nunmehr verpasste Ausfahrt vor dem endgültigen Umbau Polens in eine Autokratie, erfährt man, wenn man mit Leuten wie WOJCIECH SADURSKI redet. Der ist seit vielen Jahren Professor für Rechtstheorie an der Universität Sydney und als solcher ein Gelehrter von Weltruf, aber auch in seinem Heimatland Polen wissenschaftlich und öffentlich sehr präsent – so sehr, dass ihn die Regierungspartei PiS und ihre Verbündeten mit mehreren Gerichtsverfahren überzogen haben. Mit ihm spricht Max Steinbeis in der heutigen Folge unseres Krisenpodcasts über die freie Bahn, die die PiS-Regierung jetzt hat für ihre autoritären Pläne. Continue reading >>
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11 Juli 2020
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Court-Packing, Judicial Independence, and Populism

Should the US Supreme Court be reformed? Many advocate for the introduction of term limits and/or other reforms. The new “court reform” movement is interesting no matter what its actual prospects are because it seems – but we think only seems – to fall within a broad category of challenges to constitutional courts brought by populists around the world. Continue reading >>
07 Juli 2020

Strasbourg Steps in

In recent months, the European Court of Human Rights has communicated to the Government of the Republic of Poland several important cases concerning changes in the judiciary. Potential Strasbourg judgements may be important in containing further undermining of the independence of the judiciary and may complement measures taken at the European Union level. Continue reading >>
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08 Juni 2020

To Shoot Down a Judge

Waldemar Żurek, a Polish Judge tirelessly campaigning to preserve the independence of Polish courts, has probably endured every kind of repression that those in power have in their arsenal, save for being suspended as a judge. He was transferred against his will to another division in his court, harassed with anonymous threats over the phone and in emails and is now facing Kafkaesque claims of criminal misconduct. Continue reading >>
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03 Juni 2020
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Repression of Freedom of Expression in Poland: Renewing support for Wojciech Sadurski

In pre-COVID19 times we drew attention (here and here) to the fact that our colleague, Professor Wojciech Sadurski, faces multiple civil and criminal cases in Poland resulting from his tweets which were critical of the ruling party. The cases were brought against him by the current government and its associates. Unfortunately, COVID19 has evidently not changed their priorities Continue reading >>
26 Mai 2020
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Can an Unlawful Judge be the First President of the Supreme Court?

Yesterday, the President of Poland appointed Małgorzata Manowska as the First President of the Supreme Court. The Polish Supreme Court, with Manowska as its First President, may from now on have difficulty providing the appearance of independence as required from all national courts dealing with EU law. Continue reading >>
20 Mai 2020
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Corona Constitutional #27: Justiz-Iron Man in Polen

Seit Wochen streiten die Richterinnen und Richter des polnischen Obersten Gerichtshofs darüber, wer für den vakanten Präsidentenposten kandidieren soll. Am Freitag könnte die Entscheidung endlich fallen. Was genau dort vor sich geht, und was auf dem Spiel steht, erklärt ANNA WÓJCIK vom Osiatyński Archiv im Gespräch mit Max Steinbeis. Continue reading >>
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15 Mai 2020

Between Constitutional Tragedy and Political Farce

One of the two basic genres of ancient drama is tragedy – fate thwarts all the intentions and actions of the main protagonist, leading him to his doom. In such terms does the governing coalition in Poland attempt to present what befell the presidential elections in Poland – just a few days before the elections, the leaders of the two coalition parties issued the decision that the elections would not take place on the planned and constitutional dates. Was it indeed the lack of cooperation from the opposition, despite the strenuous attempts and herculean efforts of the government, that made it necessary to postpone the elections? Continue reading >>
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08 Mai 2020
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Corona Constitutional #22: Hat Kaczyński sich verrechnet?

An diesem Sonntag wird in Polen ein neuer Präsident gewählt. Offiziell. Die Sache ist nur, dass an diesem Sonntag in Polen kein neuer Präsident gewählt wird. Die Regierung hat keine Wahl organisiert bekommen, will stattdessen vom Obersten Gerichtshof diese Wahl-Nichtwahl für ungültig erklären lassen, dahinter steckt ein elaboriertes politisches Kalkül, das aber im ganz großen Stil schief gehen könnte. Extrem spannende und riskante Zeiten also in Polen, und darüber spricht Max Steinbeis in der heutigen Folge unseres Krisenpodcasts mit einem Mann, der seit vielen Jahren als eine der letzten von der Regierungspartei PiS unabhängigen Institutionen des Staates gegen den Zerfall der Rechtsstaatlichkeit ankämpft, nämlich mit dem Bürgerrechtsbeauftragten ADAM BODNAR, der obendrein auch noch eine Botschaft an das deutsche Bundesverfassungsgericht mitgebracht hat. Continue reading >>
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07 Mai 2020

Appeal to the independent Judges of the Supreme Court

Judges of the Civil Chamber,Judges of the Criminal Chamber, Judges of […] Continue reading >>
05 Mai 2020

Plague President

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, city councils appointed plague doctors to assist those suffering from the Black Death. Now, in the 21st century, we are about to appoint a plague president in Poland. The governing Law and Justice (PiS) party is refusing to postpone the presidential election, scheduled for May 10, even though the COVID-19 pandemic is rampant. This is both detrimental to public health and unconstitutional. Continue reading >>
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29 April 2020
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When Will the EU Commission Act?

When can we expect the European Commission to launch an infringement action against the “muzzle law”? When will the European Commission act to sanction Polish authorities’ refusal to comply with the Court of Justice’s A. K. preliminary ruling of 19 November 2019? When will the European Commission apply for financial sanctions following Polish authorities’ public refusal to immediately and fully comply with the Court of Justice’s interim relief order of 8 April 2020 in respect of the so-called “disciplinary chamber”? When will the European Commission launch an infringement action in respect of the unlawful actions of the so-called “Constitutional Tribunal”? Continue reading >>
28 April 2020

On Doctrinal Contortions and Legal Fetishes

There seems to be a belief – especially persistent among some EU legal scholars – that even the largest political problems can be solved through the law. It suggests that any balance of authority and legitimacy between the EU and the Member States is, in fact, a mere technicality of institutional configuration, and a mere doctrinal sleight of hand would suffice to tip the scale of authority one way or another. This belief also seems to be underlying a recent blogpost by Christophe Hillion. Continue reading >>
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27 April 2020
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Corona Constitutional #16: Scheidung auf Europäisch

Wenn Polen und Ungarn sich erkennbar nicht mehr an das EU-Recht gebunden fühlen - was ist das dann anderes als eine Erklärung, nicht mehr Mitglied in der Europäischen Union sein zu wollen? Der Weg zum Polexit bzw. Hungrexit geht über Artikel 50 des EU-Vertrags, und CHRISTOPHE HILLION schlägt dem Rat vor, diesen Weg notfalls auch ohne das Einverständnis von Polen und Ungarn zu beschreiten. Ob und wie das europarechtlich genau funktionieren würde, bespricht Max Steinbeis mit dem Professor für EU-Recht in unserer heutigen Podcast-Folge. Continue reading >>

Poland and Hungary are withdrawing from the EU

The latest developments in Poland and Hungary beg the question of what the EU may, or indeed shall do when a Member State no longer fulfils the prerequisites of membership. Can the Union force that state to meet its duties against its will? Or should it ultimately acknowledge that state’s choice, and proceed with its orderly retreat from the EU legal order? Continue reading >>
25 April 2020

The Green Pact and Rule of Law in the EU

The governments of 13 EU member states have signed a letter calling for a "green" way out of the COVID-19 crisis (although the Czech government has asked the EU to "forget" about its Green Pact). Interesting as this initiative may be, the EU must ensure that it does not become an instrument that undermines the fight for the rule of law in the EU. The history advises us to be vigilant because EU funds may become a useful instrument in hands of illiberal governments. Continue reading >>
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23 April 2020
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Corona Constitutional #15: Polen, die EU und das letzte Wort

Unser heutiges Thema hat mit Corona unmittelbar gar nicht so viel zu tun, mit Krise dafür um so mehr: Es geht um Polen, um das polnische Verfassungsgericht, das in dieser Woche ein Urteil gefällt hat, das, sagen wir mal, erklärungsbedürftig ist. Dieses Urteil, um das Ergebnis vorweg zu nehmen, springt nicht nur mit dem polnischen Verfassungsrecht, sondern auch und vor allem mit dem Europarecht auf beispiellos brachiale Weise um. Darüber spricht Max Steinbeis mit einem Europarechtler, der sich sowohl mit dem Verhältnis von nationaler Verfassungsgerichtsbarkeit zum EU-Recht als auch mit dem speziellen Fall Polen viel beschäftigt hat und obendrein ein langjähriger Freund und Autor des Verfassungsblogs ist, nämlich FRANZ MAYER von der Uni Bielefeld. Continue reading >>
21 April 2020

The Constitution as a Bargaining Chip

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Poland’s government is refusing to announce an emergency state, presumably in order to go ahead with the Presidential election on 10 May. Instead, the ruling coalition in Poland has been presenting increasingly controversial proposals aimed at ensuring that the country’s PiS-aligned President will remain in office. The most recent one envisages a constitutional amendment which would extend the president’s term of office. This proposal is nothing but an attempt to blackmail the opposition: either vote for a constitutional change or be blamed for the consequences of holding a presidential election during the pandemic. Continue reading >>
15 April 2020

Infringement Procedures in the Time of COVID-19

In the last weeks, members of the European Parliament and observers in the legal and academic community have, explicitly or implicitly, criticised the European Commission and the Court of Justice for their handling of ongoing infringement procedures. Put simply, the two institutions have been criticised for moving the existing cases forward, despite the fact that certain countries (first Italy, then followed by almost all other Member States) are in lockdown and, consequently, their administrations are unable to effectively respond. Continue reading >>
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09 April 2020

Protecting Polish Judges from the Ruling Party’s “Star Chamber”

For the third time, the ECJ has intervened in the subjugation of the judiciary in member states. Its injunction against Poland's "disciplinary chamber" is an important step. But unless Ursula von der Leyen's Commission starts facing up reality, winning legal battles will not prevent losing another member state, after Hungary, to autocracy. Continue reading >>
31 März 2020
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Illiberal Consti­tutionalism at Work

Hungary’s and Poland’s responses to COVID-19 demonstrate how illiberal constitutionalism works in practice. In both countries, national constitutional or sub-constitutional emergency regimes provide the framework for government action. Different political and constitutional contexts, however, mean that their specific proceedings diverge. Continue reading >>
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29 März 2020

Preparing for the Pandemic Elections

There is no doubt that the essential state institutions should function as effectively as possible in the times of pandemic. It also means finding concrete and fast solutions provided in special statutes, aiming at alleviating social and economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. However, even when proceeding the bill known as Anti-crisis Shield (“Tarcza antykryzysowa”) that provides a financial aid for healthcare system, companies and different kinds of workers in Poland, the governing PiS party managed to introduce unconstitutional amendments to the bill. Continue reading >>
28 März 2020

Die Unstrittigkeit des Zwecks

Wenn die Bedrohung, wie im Fall des Virus, als natürliche Gegebenheit auftritt, kommen leicht auch die Maßnahmen, um ihn zu beseitigen, als natürliche, d.h. fraglos vorgegebene Maßnahmen in Betracht. Eine Gefahr liegt hier darin, von einer Natürlichkeit des Zwecks auf die Natürlichkeit der Mittel zu schließen. Dass die Maßnahmen aber nicht natürlich gegeben, sondern politisch entschieden sind, muss demgegenüber im Blick bleiben. Continue reading >>
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26 März 2020

The Court gives with one hand and takes away with the other

On March 26, the CJEU released a surprising – if not to say disappointing – judgment on the Polish system of disciplinary measures against judges. While the Court confirmed the ample material scope of Article 19(1)(2) TEU, it simultaneously restricted the procedural possibilities to remedy infringements via the preliminary reference procedure. Continue reading >>
24 März 2020

An Election in the Time of Pandemic

In Poland, the Law and Justice (PiS) government has opted not to use its constitutional power to declare a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 spreading. As Wojciech Sadurski explained, its motive is simple: not to postpone the Presidential election in Poland and thus increase the chances of the President-in-Office to win the second term. The question is whether the pandemic may cause invalidity of the election. If the answer is yes, as I suggest, the problem is who should be the judge of it. The chamber of the Polish Supreme Court that is empowered by law to do so does not give an ‘appearance of independence’, following the PiS’s so-called ‘reform’ of the judiciary. Continue reading >>
18 März 2020

The Polish Presidential Campaign in the Shadow of the Pandemic

Various types of states of emergency have been, and in all likelihood will be, introduced or at least contemplated in different states of the world to cope with the COVID 19 crisis. Nowhere is this issue more lively than in Poland which is currently in the midst of the presidential election campaign – or rather “a sort of” election campaign of a somewhat bizarre character. It is a one-man campaign, leading up to the election which, by all standards, should not take place in a scheduled time. Except that the incumbent and his party seem not to notice it. Continue reading >>
10 März 2020

Commission v Poland: What Happened, What it Means, What it Will Take

9 March 2020. It had been marked in many a Polish diary. Would the EU make steps to finally act to stop the backliding? The electronic board in front of the Grande Salle indicates Case C-791/19 R, Commission versus Poland. A report from Luxembourg. Continue reading >>
09 März 2020
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Open Letter to the President of the European Commission regarding Poland’s “Muzzle Law”

The current procrastination is akin to dereliction of duty: Waiting to bring infringement actions and to fail to simultaneously seek interim measures when the rule of law in a Member State is so obviously and blatantly deteriorating on an industrial scale only means that the Commission faces a far more serious and intractable problem to deal with later. Continue reading >>
05 März 2020

Muzzling Associations of Judges

Art 88 a of Poland's so-called "muzzle law" law prescribes that judges must disclose their membership in associations, their functions performed in non-profit foundations and membership in parties before they became judges. The provision applies to memberships in all kinds of associations, including associations of judges. In this form, the provision violates the European Convention of Human Rights as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Continue reading >>
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29 Februar 2020

For Norway it’s Official: The Rule of Law is No More in Poland

The so-called “muzzle law”, adopted by the Polish parliament on January 23, was the last straw. On Thursday 27 February, the board of the Norwegian Court Administration decided to withdraw from its planned cooperation with Poland under the justice programme of the EEA and Norway Grants, due to concerns over the Polish justice reforms. Continue reading >>
26 Februar 2020

The Ghost of an Authoritarian State Stands at the Door of Your Home

In the late hot summer of 2033, in the home of a retired judge, a copy of a letter dated 21 February 2020 was lying on a desk. It was a father’s letter to his lawyer son. Here are its contents... Continue reading >>
07 Februar 2020

This is not a drill

On Thuringia, the US, Poland, Europe and some extremely odd practices in academic publishing. Continue reading >>

Das ist kein Probealarm

Über Thüringen, USA, Polen, Europa und die sonderbaren Praktiken im Wissenschafts-Verlagsbusiness. Continue reading >>
05 Februar 2020

You Can’t Forbid Judges to Think

The Polish judiciary is split apart. One part adheres to the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU of 19th November 2019, another does not. This legal chaos and catastrophe was caused by the recent judicial reforms and it deprives citizens of the most important right – to be certain what their legal situation in court is. Continue reading >>
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03 Februar 2020

The Struggle of Strasbourg

This year’s Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) saw three distinct yet interrelated developments. On Tuesday, the Assembly decided to open a monitoring procedure with regard to Poland on behalf of the ongoing rule of law backsliding. On Wednesday, the Assembly decided to ratify the credentials of the Russian delegates which had previously been challenged both on procedural and on substantive grounds. Still on Wednesday, the Assembly backed the proposal for the introduction of a new ‘complementary joint procedure’, together with the Committee of Ministers, in response to violations of fundamental principles underlying the work of the organisation. Continue reading >>
31 Januar 2020

Die EU hat keine Nationalgarde

Über Polen. Andere Länder auch, aber ganz überwiegend über Polen. Continue reading >>

The EU has no National Guard

On Poland. Other places too, but mostly about Poland. Continue reading >>
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30 Januar 2020
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„Judges should be fully insulated from any sort of pressure“

Prof. Koen Lenaerts, President of the Court of Justice of the European Union, explains why mutual trust and judicial independence are of fundamental importance to the EU Member States. Continue reading >>
28 Januar 2020

Is it worth being a Rejtan?

The Rejtan's true gesture – to disagree if something is not consistent with my fundamental beliefs, is it just an act of useless despair? Today I think about it differently. Expressing one's opinion, thoughts, views, even if it does not bring directly any tangible, immediately visible result, it goes far beyond pure symbolism and translates into reality. I have tried to keep this in mind also in my public activity as a judge. Continue reading >>
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26 Januar 2020
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Polen, die EU und das Ende der Welt, wie wir sie kennen: ein Interview mit FRANZ MAYER

Was, wenn Polen den Konflikt mit der EU immer weiter eskaliert? Was, wenn die PiS-Regierung die vom EuGH gegebenenfalls verhängten Bußgelder einfach nicht bezahlt? Ein Gespräch über europäische Rechtsstaatlichkeitspolitik in extremis. Continue reading >>
24 Januar 2020

Was qualmt denn da so komisch?

Über Polen, Russland und andere "gelenkte Demokratien", UK und andere (noch) nicht gelenkte Demokratien. Und Deutschland. Und Europa. Und, erwähnte ich das schon? natürlich Polen. Continue reading >>
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Have you noticed that burnt smell?

On Poland, Russia and other "guided democracies", the UK and other not (yet) guided democracies. And on Germany. Oh, and have I mentioned Poland? And on Poland. Continue reading >>
23 Januar 2020

EU Rule of Law Dialogues: Risks – in Context

On January 16, 2020 the European Parliament passed a resolution about the state of the Article 7(1) TEU hearings with Hungary and Poland, noting with concern that “the reports and statements by the Commission and international bodies, such as the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe, indicate that the situation in both Poland and Hungary has deteriorated since the triggering of Article 7(1) of the TEU”. The resolution is a plea for a structured and more meaningful process in which each EU institution would exercise its existing powers in a meaningful and cooperative manner. The resolution emphasizes that the Article 7(1) TEU preventive process is one of risk assessment and one that may have actual – including budgetary – consequences. Continue reading >>
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Only a Court Established by Law Can Be an Independent Court

In A.K. and others, the European Court of Justice established a detailed method for assessing the independence (or lack thereof) of courts. The judicial independence test laid down by the ECJ, however, may not be entirely fit for the purpose of assessing the lawfulness of courts and judges which are established and appointed on the basis of flawed procedures by bodies arguably violating basic judicial independence requirements as established in EU law. The ECJ appears to limit the required verification under EU law to the issue of independence only. Instead, the reviewing body should, first, check whether the challenged court (judge) is “established by law” and only then, if necessary, follow up on the examination of its independence. Today the Polish Supreme Court has the opportunity to step up and give full effect to that criterion. Continue reading >>
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17 Januar 2020

French Law is NOT a Model for the Polish Bill on Disciplining Judges

We, French legal academics and experts in French Law, reject the instrumentalization of French Law by the Polish Government Continue reading >>

Kein Appeasement

Neues aus Russland, Polen, Spanien, Indien, Deutschland und Italien. Continue reading >>
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No Appeasement

On Russia, Poland, Spain, India, Germany, Italy and others. Continue reading >>
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15 Januar 2020
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1460 Days Later: Rule of Law in Poland R.I.P. (Part II)

Writing a year ago, we warned that the situation in Poland “has deteriorated further to the point of threatening the functioning of the whole EU legal order and therefore, the future of the EU’s internal market itself.” This is no longer a mere threat but a clear and present danger. Stalling for time would be irresponsible. On current trajectory, it is only a matter of time before Poland’s rule of law default eventually triggers a knock-on process of legal disintegration. Continue reading >>
13 Januar 2020
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1460 Days Later: Rule of Law in Poland R.I.P. (Part I)

On 13 January 2016, exactly four years ago today, the Commission activated its rule of law framework for the very first time with respect to Poland. This (two-part) post will highlight the main developments, primarily from the point of view of EU law, which took place in 2019. Continue reading >>
31 Dezember 2019

The Supranational Rule of Law: Thinking the Future

Writing at the end of 2019 it must be clear that art. 7 TEU is not a viable political option at all. However, the Treaties do contain legal mechanisms to enforce the rule of law against the member states. Art. 7 is not, and must not, be the center of the rule of law world in the EU. Poland’s refusal to obey the Court’s judgments and its readiness to do everything possible to circumvent it strike at the very heart of the EU rule of law. The challenge is to use what is legally available rather than keep finding excuses for not using the mechanisms already in place. Continue reading >>
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22 Dezember 2019

Discipline and Punish

The Polish rule of law saga took yet another turn for the worse. The Parliament is working on a bill to prevent judicial review of the previous judicial reforms as well as to neutralize the effects of adverse CJEU judgments. The bill is blatantly unconstitutional but without a functioning Constitutional Court it does not matter much. It is also contrary to EU law. Continue reading >>
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12 Dezember 2019

Burning the Last Bridge to Europe

The Polish legal system is infected by a virulent pathogen, viz. the neoKRS, which spreads its spores with each judicial appointment. The only deduction to be drawn from the recent CJEU verdict and the subsequent ruling of the Polish Supreme Court is that the neoKRS is an illegally constituted body that illegally appoints judges who deliver invalid judgments. The more illegally appointed judges, the greater the number of invalid judgments. Any government that valued the integrity of the nation’s legal system would set about healing such a sick system without delay. Continue reading >>
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11 Dezember 2019
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Open Letter to the President of the European Commission

Ever since the European Commission initiated a third infringement procedure in respect to the recurrent attacks on the rule of law by Polish authorities last April, the situation has continued to seriously deteriorate. It is now upon the Commission to promptly submit to the European Court of Justice an application for interim measures in the infringement case C-791/19 Commission v Poland now pending before the Court of Justice. Continue reading >>
01 Dezember 2019

Building on #WithWoj

Just days away from a new Commission taking office that proclaims to put rule-of-law protection centre-stage, this may be a good time to suggest some ways forward based on the energy generated by, and experiences with #WithWoj. I suggest there are three elements, and each may be counterintuitive and/or confrontational. Continue reading >>
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28 November 2019
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Supporting Wojciech Sadurski in a Warsaw Courtroom

Last week one of us, together with Gráinne de Burca, again put the spotlight on PiS and allies suing Wojciech Sadurski over some highly critical tweets. It led to a tremendous show of support. This support makes it a statement of the obvious that Sadurski’s trial is a blemish on the EU and every Member States that both so frequently pledge to take the rule of law seriously. And yet. His (first) trial took place yesterday, Wednesday 27 November, at the Warsaw district court. Here is an account of what we both witnessed, live and through live footage respectively. Continue reading >>
26 November 2019
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The Power of ‘Appearances’

Last week the EU Court of Justice replied to Polish Supreme Court’s preliminary references regarding the independence of judges of its Disciplinary Chamber. The good news is that the ECJ gave to all Polish courts a powerful tool to ensure each citizen’s right to a fair trial before an independent judge, without undermining the systems of judicial appointments in other Member States. The bad news is that the test of appearance may easily be misused or abused. Continue reading >>
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19 November 2019
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High Expectations

Both sides have declared victory after the CJEU decision on judicial independence in Poland today. Most probably a more general assessment will be provided in the infringement action against Poland submitted by the Commission in October 2019. Continue reading >>
18 November 2019
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Stand with Wojciech Sadurski: his freedom of expression is (y)ours

Just days before the trial against Wojciech Sadurski in Warsaw, we write to seek renewal of your support, and for your help in keeping the PiS strategy of coordinated legal harassment against him, and the threat of a criminal conviction and an award of damages against him as well as hefty legal fees, in the public eye. The party believes that it can ride out the storm, and that by ignoring the protests they will eventually disappear. But they will not. Continue reading >>
18 Oktober 2019

Closing Loops, Unclosing Loops

On elections in Poland and Hungary and other constitutional matters of hope and despair. Continue reading >>

The Polish Senate under Opposition Control

The Polish Senate is not going to open with a prayer, but it might well close with an investigation: What the loss of its majority in the second chamber of Parliament could entail for PiS rule and it's attacks against the rule of law. Continue reading >>
12 Oktober 2019
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Is One Offended Pole Enough to Take Critics of Official Historical Narratives to Court?

In a recent interview with Verfassungsblog, Wojciech Sadurski lists his fears accompanying the high probability of the Law and Justice forthcoming electoral victory. He mentions fundamental rules and values, such as the constitutional order, an independent judiciary, fair elections and free press. However, what can also be at stake and what just seemingly may be considered of lesser importance, is the possible conclusion of the process of reshaping the historical narratives and introduction of a state-imposed vision of historical truth. Continue reading >>
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10 Anti-Constitutional Commandments

Poland is on the eve of the parliamentary elections to be held on October 13, 2019. This provides a good opportunity to step back for a second to analyse the turbulent years of 2015-2019 and to piece together scattered elements of a new constitutional doctrine that has emerged since November 2015. Such a perspective should help readers of Verfassungsblog to truly understand and appreciate the scale and depth of the change that has happened to the prevalent (and what was presumed to be unshakeable) post-1989 constitutional paradigms. Continue reading >>
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11 Oktober 2019

Creating a Safe Venue of Judicial Review

On 24 September 2019, Advocate General Tanchev delivered his opinion in joined cases C-558/18 and C-563/18. It is his latest involvement in a series of cases which concern the rule of law in Poland and which is questionable from a legal as well as factual standpoint. Continue reading >>
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25 September 2019

Undemocratic but Formally Lawful: The Suspension of the Polish Parliament

While the attention of many constitutional law scholars has been on the UK Government’s decision to prorogue Parliament and first judicial responses, the Polish Sejm’s plenary sitting has been unexpectedly suspended and postponed until after the general elections of 13 October 2019. The decision has a precedential nature. For the first time since the Polish Constitution entered into force, the ‘old’ Sejm is sitting while the ‘new’ Sejm will be waiting for an opening. Although this decision is formally compliant with the Polish Constitution, it is nonetheless undemocratic and raises some serious questions about the motivation behind this move. Continue reading >>
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06 September 2019

Fighting Fire with Fire

At the first sight, the likely nomination of Věra Jourova as Commissioner for rule of law and dropping Frans Timmermans out of the portfolio appears to be a significant victory for the Visegrad Group. However, considering Jourova’s track record, her nomination might be a clever, but hazardous move by Ursula von der Leyen that may deepen the cleavage among the Visegrad countries, put an end to their coordinated acting in sovereignty related issues, and cause more headache in Budapest and Warsaw than expected. Continue reading >>
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15 Juni 2019

Being a Good Dictator is not so Easy

On investigative journalists, homeless people, aberrant academics and other sources of civic unrest and discomfort. Continue reading >>
09 Juni 2019

A Bad Workman Blames His Tools

On caulking walls, laying oxygen pipes and other matters of constitutional craftsmanship Continue reading >>
14 Mai 2019

Offence Intended – Virgin Mary With a Rainbow Halo as Freedom of Expression

The news that a 51-year-old activist, Ms Elżbieta Podleśna, was detained and interrogated by Polish authorities shocked the public in Poland. She is charged under Poland's "blasphemy law" for allegedly putting up posters of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo. This latest example of Polish authorities prosecuting cases of religious insults illustrates the incompatibility of Poland’s “blasphemy law” with European human rights guarantees, in particular the freedom of expression. Continue reading >>
06 Mai 2019
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Open Letter in Support of Professor Wojciech Sadurski

A call for an end to the repressive use of litigation by the Polish government and its supporters to punish freedom of speech. Continue reading >>
19 April 2019

22 Years of Polish Constitution: Of Lessons not Learnt, Opportunities Missed, and Challenges still to be Met

The Polish constitution, unlike the German which will celebrate its 7-O on 23 May of this year, has no big birthday scheduled this year. Nevertheless, the 22. anniversary of the Polish constitution on 2 April offers a good opportunity to ponder about the Constitution’s performance so far, to appreciate its resilience, to celebrate its many achievements and, last but not least, to map out its possible future trajectory. Continue reading >>
11 April 2019

Three Steps Ahead, One Step Aside: The AG’s Opinion in the Commission v. Poland Case

In the infringement case about forced retirement of Polish Supreme Court judges, the Advocate General has delivered his much-awaited opinion. The AG proposed that the Court should declare that Poland failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 19 TEU. I do agree with this conclusion. I do not share, however, the Advocate General's view that the complaint of the Commission should be rejected as inadmissible as far as it is based on the right to an independent judge under Article 49 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Continue reading >>
31 März 2019

How to Defend the Integrity of the EP Elections against Authoritarian Member States

The elections to the European Parliament will take place in a few weeks’ time. There is a clear danger that some of the new MEPs will gain their mandates in elections organised by Member States that are not up to democratic standards. The European Parliament should try to defend itself from being infiltrated by MEPs with questionable democratic mandates. It already possesses the competence which is necessary for it, in the form of mandate validation. Continue reading >>
21 März 2019
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The Role of Citizen Emotions in Constitutional Backsliding – Mapping Out Frontiers of New Research

Liberal, constitutional democracy is decaying in Eastern Europe. Important liberal institutions and norms face threats even in stronger and more stable democracies in Western Europe, and perhaps especially in the United States. the assault on key liberal institutions by populist movements has been as successful as it has because those groups have been able to harness – and fuel – the anger and anxieties of citizens. Continue reading >>
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17 März 2019

Fight Fire with Fire – a Plea for EU Information Campaigns in Hungarian and Polish

In the current crisis of democracy in the EU, we should not put too much pressure on the judiciary to fix the rule of law and democracy. Neither should we put too much hope for positive developments on (European) party politics. Rather I suggest that the EU should start speaking directly to the electorate via EU information campaigns in Hungarian and Polish. The 2019 European Parliament elections might provide an adequate framework for such campaigns. Continue reading >>
14 März 2019

Straßburg und das Anti-Richter-Dilemma

Nach einem aktuellen Urteil des EGMR ist ein Gericht, an dem regelwidrig ernannte Richter_innen mitwirken, nicht "auf Gesetz beruhend" i.S.v. Art. 6 Abs. 1 EMRK. Was bedeutet, dass jeder, den ein solches Gericht verurteilt, sein Recht auf ein faires Verfahren in Straßburg einklagen kann. Der EGMR kontrolliert, ob die Regeln bei der Richterernennung eingehalten wurden. Das, so scheint mir, könnte in Polen noch massive Folgen haben, und nicht nur dort. Continue reading >>
06 März 2019
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Countering the Judicial Silencing of Critics: Novel Ways to Enforce European Values

The Polish government is stepping up its repression. The freedom of political speech is a main target. A national judge has not just the right but an outright duty to refer a case to the CJEU whenever the common value basis is in danger. Thus, a Polish judge faced with a case concerning the silencing of critics, must refer the matter to the CJEU and request an interpretation of Article 2 TEU in light of the rights at stake. Continue reading >>
27 Februar 2019

From Constitutional to Political Justice: The Tragic Trajectories of the Polish Constitutional Court

The Polish Constitutional Court, once a proud institution and an effective check on the will of the majority, is now a shell of its former self. The constitutional scars of the capture affect not only the legitimacy of the institution, but also the very constitutionality of the “decisions” rendered by the new court in 2017-2018. Continue reading >>
17 Januar 2019
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1095 Days Later: From Bad to Worse Regarding the Rule of Law in Poland (Part II)

Part II of our stock-taking of the EU rule of law proceedings against Poland: what the Luxembourg Court, the Council and member states can do to prevent further decay of the rule of law. Continue reading >>
13 Januar 2019
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1095 Days Later: From Bad to Worse Regarding the Rule of Law in Poland (Part I)

On 13 January 2016, exactly three years ago today, the Commission activated the so-called rule of law framework for the very first time with respect to Poland. As things stand today, Polish authorities’ sustained and systematic attacks on the rule of law now more than ever directly threaten the very functioning of the EU legal order. Continue reading >>
18 Dezember 2018

The Democratic Backsliding and the European constitutional design in error. When will HOW meet WHY?

When is the constitutional design of any (domestic, international, supranational) polity in error? On the most general level such critical juncture obtains when polity’s founding document (treaty, convention, constitution) protects against the dangers that no longer exist or does not protect against the dangers that were not contemplated by the Founders. While discussion of the evolution of human rights and international actors in response to social change (LGBT, euthanasia, abortion) is well documented, such evolution with regard to political change (transition from one sort of government to another) is less well documented. Constitutions not only constitute but should also protect against de-constitution. For supranational legal order to avoid a deadlock of „being in error” in the above sense, the systemic threats coming from within the polity’s component parts must be recognised and constitutional design be changed accordingly. Continue reading >>
13 Dezember 2018

How can a democratic constitution survive an autocratic majority?

Can the democratic constitutions of Hungary and Poland survive an autocratic majority? Hardly. Hungary and Poland seem to be lost for liberal and democratic constitutionalism. At least for the time being, the next question is how democratic constitutionalism can prevent an autocratic majority. The task is to make it difficult for an autocratic parliamentary majority to capture the institutions of critique and control of government and to undermine separation of powers. Continue reading >>
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12 Dezember 2018

No Case for Legal Interventionism: Defending Democracy Through Protecting Pluralism and Parliamentarism

Being a democrat means accepting that the law is not a very durable sword against authoritarianism. Democratic law bends and submits to the majority. When push comes to shove, it lacks the capacity to defy anti-democratic, authoritarian majorities. Of course, this does not mean that legal mechanisms and instruments are meaningless in this context. They can work against and impede the rise of anti-pluralist, illiberal and anti-democratic political movements. But it is important to acknowledge that legal interventions and prohibitive measures that target anti-liberal, anti-democratic political platforms also pose risks. They may undermine what they are supposed to protect: a free and egalitarian political process that is based on open political competition, pluralism and a free public discourse. Continue reading >>
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11 Dezember 2018

Constitutional Resilience to Populism: Four Theses

Let us make a plea for modesty. Constitutional democrats need to be clear-eyed and realistic about what good constitutional design can do. We need to steer a middle course between constitutional idealism and nihilism. Constitutional idealists argue that thoughtful and intelligent constitutional design can largely eliminate the risk posed by populism; constitutional nihilists respond by arguing that there is little, if anything, that constitutional design can do in the face of the populist challenge that secures victory at the ballot box and captures the state from within. Continue reading >>
10 Dezember 2018

How to Abolish Democracy: Electoral System, Party Regulation and Opposition Rights in Hungary and Poland

When it comes to Poland and Hungary, everyone is talking about the judiciary, about the independence of the courts, about the rule of law. But hardly anyone talks about parliaments. Yet they are at the heart of our democracies. And they are no less at risk. This became clear in the third panel of our workshop, which dealt with the electoral system, party regulation and opposition rights in Hungary and Poland. What may sound technical at first glance are surprisingly effective instruments in the hands of autocrats. It is precisely with these instruments that the governments of both countries have set the course for a “democracy” that primarily benefits the ruling parties and undermines political plurality. Continue reading >>
09 Dezember 2018

“Constitutional Resilience – How Can a Democratic Constitution Survive an Autocratic Majority?”: Freedom of Speech, Media and Civil Society in Hungary and Poland

Freedom of speech, media freedom and the freedom of civil society are the lifeblood of democracy. As far as the threats to freedom of speech, media and civil society are concerned, from a normative perspective, the problems of Hungary and Poland are decidedly not external to western democracies. The question arises of how resilient constitutions are or can be made in this matter, whereby political viewpoint discrimination takes a center role in the conetxt of not only constitutional resilience but also our European values. Continue reading >>
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08 Dezember 2018

How Can a Democratic Constitution Survive an Autocratic Majority? A Report on the Presentations on the Judiciary

European institutions and governments have come in for a lot of critique over the past few years. Sometimes such critiques have seemed unfair and hypocritical, in particular where those who criticize are no role models either (e.g. the European Union). And judging on a case-by-case basis, some the actions of the Polish or Hungarian governments seem perhaps not that extraordinary. Yet, once we look at the whole, a different picture emerges. As Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq have argued in their recent book How to Save a Constitutional Democracy, democracies can erode where we see changes with regard in the three fields key to preserving democracy: free and fair elections, the sphere of public discourse and the rule of law and the institutions enforcing it, i.e. courts and the administration. In Hungary and Poland, we see changes in all of these areas and this should worry us. Continue reading >>
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07 Dezember 2018

Laws, Conventions, and Fake Constitutions

Does pure majoritarian decision making have intrinsic value or offer better consequences for society? The case of Hungary is not isolated but is an integral part of a global phenomenon. In contrast with earlier waves of democratization that spread across the globe, more recent tendencies have led to the disintegration of democracies. Not only Hungary and Poland (two EU Member States), but also Russia (probably the first regime of this kind), and many other countries from Azerbaijan to Venezuela epitomize this phenomenon, in which the country in question adopts — apparently in a democratic manner — a legal transformation that moves it ever further from, rather than toward, democratic principles. Given that today democracy counts solely as a legitimate constitutional system, the most salient new feature is that authoritarianism must play at being democracy. Continue reading >>
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