The European Commission’s Activation of Article 7: Better Late than Never?

On Wednesday, the European Commission reacted to the continuing deterioration of the rule of law situation in Poland. The remaining question, of course, is why this argument has been used in the context of 7(1) as opposed of 7(2) given that the situation on the ground in Poland is clearly – in the view of the Commission, the Venice Commission and countless other actors – one of clear and persistent breach of values, as opposed to a threat thereof. The explanation might lie beyond the simple difficulty of the procedural requirements related to the sanctioning stage.

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Provisional (And Extraordinary) Measures in the Name of the Rule of Law

The showdown was inevitable. At some point, the Court of Justice had to show its teeth and remind the Polish government of its duty to comply with the rule of law and with the values enshrined in Article 2 TEU. For the Member States of the EU, the rule of law is not an option. You either take it or leave it (and thus leave the EU). However, Poland’s late attitude towards EU integration, happily accepting the money from EU funds but showing its back on the fundamental values of the EU, was inevitably going to be confronted, sooner or later, at the Court of Justice. If the showdown was predictable, the surprise has been that it has all happened so quickly, so frontally and… in interim relief procedures in an infringement action against Poland.

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