Never Missing an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity: The Council Legal Service Opinion on the Commission’s EU budget-related rule of law mechanism

Regrettably, we need to add the Council’s Legal Service to the list of key EU actors that seem intent on ignoring the existential threat to the Union posed by the spreading rule of law rot amongst EU member governments. In a (non-public) opinion on the proposed regulation of the Commission to create rule of law conditionality in the multi-annual financial framework adopted on 25 October 2018, the CLS indeed put forward multiple unpersuasive legal arguments to claim that the Commission’s proposal cannot be adopted. With this opinion, the CLS is advising the Council to actually prevent other institutions of the EU from doing their job to uphold and defend the set of common values on which the EU is based.

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What Being Left Behind by the Rule of Law Feels Like, Part II

By now it must be clear to all that the Hungarian and Polish governments do have a plan that is built on staying within the Union, and changing it from the inside, (ab)using its institutions, resources and weaknesses to their own benefit. Every round and every step where European institutions falter in preventing moves to this effect is an opportunity for the offending member states to pursue their strategies even further.

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Though this be Madness, yet there’s Method in’t: Pitting the Polish Constitutional Tribunal against the Luxembourg Court

At the beginning of October 2018, Poland’s Prosecutor General submitted a request to the Constitutional Tribunal to examine the compliance of Article 267 TFEU with the Polish Constitution, so far as it allows the referral of preliminary questions regarding the organization of the national judiciary. Despite the relatively easy identification of motives underlying the application, there is need for analysis and evaluation of the contents of the application as well as the argumentation used as justification for this task, not least because there is a lot at stake.

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Constitutional Pluralism between Normative Theory and Empirical Fact

It has been recently floated in legal academia and the blogosphere that it is high time for constitutional pluralism to bow out of the European scene. The reason? It has been alleged to be (1) “fundamentally flawed and unsustainable” for allowing the application of EU law to be selective and unequal and (2) prone to abuse by autocrats, as demonstrated by the ongoing dismantling of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary and Poland where national (“constitutional”) identity is invoked all too often to justify patently illiberal policies. Is constitutional pluralism really to blame? What is this beast anyway?

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Interim Revolutions

With the Order against Poland to suspend its "judicial reform", the European Court of Justice has entered a terra incognita, forcing a sovereign Member State to choose between its membership to the club of European integration, or to walk away and follow the path of authoritarian illiberalism. To do this in an Order of interim measures, is quite a gamble on the part of the Luxembourg court. However, the stakes are so high that the Court was left with hardly any other choices.

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Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court recognizes Same-sex Parents

Poland is one step closer to the full legal recognition of birth certificates that include same-sex parents. In a landmark court ruling of 10 October 2018, the Supreme Administrative Court in Warsaw (SAC) found that registry offices in Poland cannot refuse the registration of foreign birth certificates of children based on the sexual orientation of their parents.

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Will Poland, With Its Own Constitution Ablaze, Now Set Fire to EU Law?

The Polish justice minister and Prosecutor-General Zbigniew Ziobro has asked the Constitutional Court to declare Art. 267 TFEU unconstitutional "to the extent that it allows referring to the Court [of Justice] a preliminary question … in matters pertaining to the design, shape, and organisation of the judiciary as well as proceedings before the judicial organs of a member state". If the Court adopts Ziobro’s arguments, that will have drastic implications for the integrity of EU law.

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“Existential Judicial Review” in Retrospect, “Subversive Jurisprudence” in Prospect. The Polish Constitutional Court Then, Now and … Tomorrow

Does anybody still remember what has happened to the Polish Constitutional Court – the first institution to be razed to the ground by the Polish counter-revolution? The “new court” that has emerged from the rubbles of the rule of law has more than readily embraced a new role of serving its political masters. The transformation of a once-proud and respected institution into a pawn on the political chessboard painfully reminds us of how deep off the cliff Poland has fallen in just three years.

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The Polish Judicial Council v The Bulgarian Judicial Council: Can You Spot the Difference?

On 17 September 2018, in Bucharest, the General Assembly of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) voted to suspend the membership of the Polish National Judicial Council (KRS) due to growing fears of lack of judicial independence in Poland. It was reported that 100 representatives voted for suspension, 6 were against (the Polish delegation), and 9 abstained. The Bulgarian delegation was among the abstainees, so Western commentators may wonder what the motivation for this position was.

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The Four Elements of the Autocrats’ Playbook

There is truth in the old maxim proclaiming the imperative to try to get to know your enemies well. We outline four key techniques deployed by the autocratic regimes in Poland and Hungary in order to consolidate the constitutional capture and massive assault on European values and take a look at some of the elements of each of the four.

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