There is No Such Thing As a Particular „Center and Eastern European Constitutionalism“

After a new landslide electoral victory by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a fresh perspective on constitutional developments in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has started taking shape. It could be described as constitutional appeasement. The argument goes that given a widespread popular support for the constitutionally backsliding regimes in Hungary, Poland as well as elsewhere, we should start examining our own theoretical premises from which we have been observing and evaluating the developments in CEE. Perhaps, there is not everything wrong with CEE political and institutional developments?

Continue Reading →

The Białowieża case. A Tragedy in Six Acts

In the judgment of 18th of April 2018 the European Court of Justice has ruled (unsurprisingly) that by carrying on logging activities on the UNESCO-protected Białowieża Forest, Poland has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law. In the Białowieża case the process of judicialization of the EU governance called for a concerted action and dual commitments: from the Court and the Commission. The Court did its part, Commission failed and reverted to its bad ways from the past: negotiating with the government who has been giving short shrift to the Commission and to the core values of the EU law for two years and will continue doing that under the pretense of striving for a compromise with the EU. The Commission continues to be missing one crucial element: the politics of resentment are not just one-off aberration.

Continue Reading →

10 Facts on Poland for the Consideration of the European Court of Justice

In June, the European Court of Justice is to decide whether, despite massive legislative changes, the Polish judiciary is still independent and therefore able to ensure a fair trial to people extradited to Poland on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant. Marcin Matczak, a Polish lawyer, uses the old tradition of the amicus curiae letter – a letter from a friend of the court – to depict the situation of the Polish judiciary in 2018.

Continue Reading →

A Constitutional Referendum to Delegitimize the Constitution

President Andrzej Duda has just announced that on 10 and 11 November a referendum will be held in Poland on the need to amend the Constitution, in which he will put to the Polish people numerous questions arising from ongoing public consultations. This consultative referendum is an attempt to delegitimise the Constitution, on which the referendum’s own legitimacy is based.

Continue Reading →

Choosing between two Evils: the Polish Ombudsman’s Dilemma

The Polish legislator has adopted several controversial anti-terror and surveillance laws recently. Ombudsman Adam Bodnar had had applied for constitutional review before the Constitutional Tribunal – but the cases were assigned to panels that included unconstitutionally elected "anti-judges". Therefore, he decided to withdraw the application. But that is not the end of the story.

Continue Reading →

Bad Response to a Tragic Choice: the Case of Polish Council of the Judiciary

A few days ago, the courageous and intelligent Chief Justice of the Polish Supreme Court, Professor Małgorzata Gersdorf, announced that, after some agonizing due to important legal and moral dilemmas at stake, she decided after all to convene the first, inaugural meeting of the National Council of Judiciary. The meeting is to take place on 27 April. The decision was met with dismay on the part of some lawyers and relief on the part of others. Generally, however, it did not prompt any particularly strong responses on either side. But the decision is momentous, both in its practical consequences and as a matter of principle.

Continue Reading →

Judicial Independence as a Precondition for Mutual Trust

The Celmer case calls for us to reflect on the question what role judicial authorities can and should play in ensuring compliance with democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights (DRF) in other EU Member States. In our view, judicial authorities ultimately have an independent responsibility to put a halt to surrenders, in case the wanted person’s fair trial rights are put in peril due to a general lack of judicial independence in the issuing state. At the same time, the political responsibility for balancing diverse EU constitutional principles needs to be borne by democratically elected institutions. Therefore, the court of the executing state should not only halt or suspend judicial cooperation in the event that persuasive pieces of evidence point to a violation of the values shared by the EU and the Member States in the issuing state, but it should also freeze the case awaiting a resolution of the matter from political actors.

Continue Reading →

The Consensus Fights Back: European First Principles Against the Rule of Law Crisis (part 2)

For the EU to have a chance against the rising politics of resentment, the language, and perspectives through which the EU looks at the member states, must be challenged and change. “Essential characteristics of EU law” must go today beyond traditional “First Principles” of supremacy and direct effect, to embrace the rule of law, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and enforceability of these principles as part of the ever-evolving consensus.

Continue Reading →

The Consensus Fights Back: European First Principles Against the Rule of Law Crisis (part 1)

The referral to the Court of Justice by the Irish judge that questions how the capture of the Polish judiciary affects her duties under the European Arrest Warrant regime has dramatically changed the landscape of the European rule of law crisis. We are witnessing a switch from the classic paradigm of EU law of «judges asking judges» (dialogue via preliminary rulings) to a more demanding « judges monitoring the judges ».

Continue Reading →

The Authoritarian Regime Survival Guide

This text was published in social media in January 2017 in a series of improvised, spontaneous tweets, which reached 3 million views within one month. Their common element was their trademark signature, “- With love, your Eastern European friends”, and the accompanying hashtag #LearnFromEurope. Excerpts and summaries were published by various on-line media, but this is the first time it is published as a whole.

Continue Reading →