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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Beyond the Spectacle: The European Parliament’s Article 7 TEU Decision on Hungary

Emotions were high and voices loud while and after the European Parliament adopted its decision to trigger an art. 7 TEU procedure against Hungary this week. Once the dust settles, it might be helpful and disillusioning to look at the possible consequences, the collateral damages and the side-effects of the European Parliament’s art. 7 TEU decision.

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How to Stop Funding Autocracy in the EU

The EU finds itself in the perverse situation of providing some of the largest transfers of funds precisely to those governments who most prominently thumb their nose at its democratic and rule-of-law norms. The legal debate about this misses the fact that the EU already has a sufficient legal basis to suspend the flow of funds to states in which rule-of-law norms are systematically violated. The real problem to date has not been the lack of adequate legal tools, but the lack of political will on the part of the European Commission to use the tools that already exist.

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Schengen Entry Bans for Political Reasons? The Case of Lyudmyla Kozlovska

On 13 August 2018, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, an Ukrainian national and the President of the Open Dialog Foundation (ODF) in Poland, was detained at Brussels airport on the basis of a Polish entry ban reported into the Schengen Information System (SIS II). One day later, the Belgian border authorities deported her to Kiev, Ukraine. This case raises questions on the discretionary power of states to use the SIS II for entry bans on ‘unwanted migrants’ and the obligation of executing states, in this case Belgium, to check the legitimacy or proportionality of these other states decisions. Furthermore, this case illustrates the necessity of effective remedies against decisions reported in large-scale databases such as SIS.

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Why the Polish Supreme Court’s Reference on Judicial Independence to the CJEU is Admissible after all

On August 2nd 2018, the Polish Supreme Court has referred questions to the European Court of Justice about whether or not the forced retirement of most of its senior judges and other infringements of judicial independence are compatible with EU law. That decision is a landmark step in the serious constitutional crisis in Poland that has been going on for several years. One issue is of fundamental importance: Is the SC’s preliminary reference  to the CJEU admissible?

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The Rule of Law Crisis in Poland: A New Chapter

The current controversies on the Polish Supreme Court resemble the conflict over the Constitutional Tribunal in 2015-216 to some extent. However, the Supreme Court took new steps on August 2, when it referred five questions to the Court of Justice of the EU and requested a preliminary ruling. All five questions relate (more or less directly) to the principles of (1) independence of the courts and (2) the judicial independence under the circumstances of the rule of law crisis in Poland and thus have a potential of becoming a key aspect in the Polish rule of law crisis.

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Open Letter

We, the undersigned, have learnt that Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Poland Professor Małgorzata Gersdorf has had her constitutionally guaranteed term of office of six years prematurely terminated by a new statute on the Supreme Court rushed through the Polish Parliament and signed by President Andrzej Duda on 26 July 2018. We also […]

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Drawing Red Lines and Giving (Some) Bite – the CJEU’s Deficiencies Judgment on the European Rule of Law

The illiberal turn in Europe has many facets. Of particular concern are Member States in which ruling majorities uproot the independence of the judiciary. For reasons well described in the Verfassungsblog, the current focus is on Poland. Since the Polish development is emblematic for a broader trend, more is at stake than the rule of law in that Member State alone (as if that were not enough). If the Polish emblematic development is not resisted, illiberal democracies might start co-defining the European constitutional order, in particular, its rule of law-value in Article 2 TEU. Accordingly, the conventional liberal self-understanding of  Europe could easily erode, with tremendous implications.

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The CJEU Has Spoken Out, But the Show Must Go On

In a nutshell, I argue that despite several conceptual problems in CJEU’s understanding of judicial independence, it showed a healthy dose of judicial statesmanship in Celmer. As neither the preliminary reference procedure nor the fundamental right to the fair trial are good “vehicles” for addressing the Polish structural judicial reforms, there is a limit what the CJEU could do. The foundations of judicial independence are political and thus the real constitutional moment will be the combo of the next Polish parliamentary and presidential elections.

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Drawing Red Lines With No (Significant) Bite – Why an Individual Test Is Not Appropriate in the LM Case

It can be argued that the individual assessment required by the Aranyosi judgment is not the proper test in the LM case due to three reasons. Firstly, regular control reverses the logic of the mutual trust developed by the CJEU. Secondly, there is a substantial difference between fundamental rights and the independence of judiciary. Infringements of the latter require other legal mechanisms of protection. Thirdly, the Polish institutional changes affecting judicial independence may influence all 26 EU acts providing for mutual recognition of judgments. A broader perspective should be taken.

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