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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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