Polexit – Quo vadis, Polonia?

Unkenntnis und Unwille sind in Polen heute an der Tagesordnung: Unkenntnis darüber, wie das europäische Recht und die europäischen Institutionen funktionieren und Unwille, sich an die freiwillig eingegangenen europäischen Verpflichtungen zu halten. Wir sind Zeugen, wie in Polen die Grundprinzipien der EU untergraben werden. Wenn aber das Rechtssystem der EU in Polen nicht mehr wirksam ist, ist das: der Polexit. Die bedenkenlose Säuberung des Obersten Gerichts, schließlich die Aushebelung der Vorabentscheidung, die Einschüchterung der Richter durch Disziplinarverfahren, das alles ist leider bereits der Polexit. Richtig verstanden bedeutet der Polexit allerdings sehr viel mehr als die Nichtanerkennung des europäischen Rechts und die Angriffe auf die Gerichte.

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Strasbourg slams old democracies on elections

On July 10 this year, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered a seminal judgement in the field of elections in the case of Mugemangango v. Belgium. Beyond its implications for Belgium in particular and the interpretation of Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR in general, the judgement rocks the long-standing distinction in Strasbourg case-law between old and new democracies. The message from Strasbourg is as clear as it is timely: The rule of law applies equally for all.

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Chasing reality

This year, like every year, saw the usual spate of data and publications aimed at tracking and analysing changes in the Rule of Law. This year, unlike every other year, has seen a global pandemic of hitherto unknown proportions. We have seen extreme changes to institutional powers, the balance between institutions, and new innovations in digital courts and parliaments. These changes render much of the painstakingly collected and analysed data on the Rule of Law out of date.

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The General Prosecutor Unbound

It is no secret that the rule of law in Bulgaria has been fragile for a long time, like in many other post-socialist states. Still, what has been going on in the last days in Bulgaria is extraordinary in a number of ways. It could be seen as an attack against the very constitutional foundations of the state. In this brief post, I will just focus on the last development concerning the disregard of the constitutional principle of the rule of law by one of the highest authorities in the state, namely the General Prosecutor.

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To Shoot Down a Judge

Waldemar Żurek, a Polish Judge tirelessly campaigning to preserve the independence of Polish courts, has probably endured every kind of repression that those in power have in their arsenal, save for being suspended as a judge. He was transferred against his will to another division in his court, harassed with anonymous threats over the phone and in emails and is now facing Kafkaesque claims of criminal misconduct.

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From Emergency to Disaster

This week, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government put before the Hungarian Parliament two draft laws that, if passed, would end the state of emergency and create a new legal framework for handing the pandemic from here on out.  In doing so, the government was responding to those who criticized the unlimited power that the government had been given in the law creating a pandemic emergency, the Enabling Act of 30 March 2020.  That law allowed the government to override any law by decree, a power that was unlimited in both scope and time and that violated Fidesz’ own “illiberal” constitution the Fundamental Law.  

The new laws are no better, and may even be worse.   One of the draft laws is less than one page long accompanied by two pages of justification.   It purports to repeal the initial Enabling Act (about which, more below).    The other one is called the law on “transitional provisions” and at first it seems only to provide lots of technical answers to questions that arise about how to reset deadlines for various legal processes that were delayed when the economy stopped. The new laws are no better, and may even be worse.

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Constitutional Innovation, Democratic Stagnation?

The recovery plan of the Commission entitled “Next Generation EU” proposes a compromise that goes beyond the ominous lowest common denominator. With a package of EUR 750bn in total, comprising EUR 250bn in loans and the rest in grants, the Commission paves the way for both forward-looking public finance and constitutional innovation. The proposals are masterpieces of high-tech legal engineering. Again, European constitutional law evolves through crisis. Yet, again, it stands to reason how far the proposed instruments will shift the European Union towards enhancing solidarity and democracy.

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Showdown at the Last Chance Saloon

As a political slogan, and a guideline in times of crisis, ‘whatever it takes’ undoubtedly has enormous appeal, and may in certain circumstances justify novel and untried forms of action. However, in a polity governed by the rule of law, there are limits to this approach which, if not respected, may cause greater problems than those which provoked the action in the first place.

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Corona Constitutional #27: Justiz-Iron Man in Polen

Seit Wochen streiten die Richterinnen und Richter des polnischen Obersten Gerichtshofs darüber, wer für den vakanten Präsidentenposten kandidieren soll. Am Freitag könnte die Entscheidung endlich fallen. Was genau dort vor sich geht, und was auf dem Spiel steht, erklärt ANNA WÓJCIK vom Osiatyński Archiv im Gespräch mit Max Steinbeis.

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The Last Chance Saloon

To all intents and purposes, Orbán and his government have ceased to be democratically accountable either to the Hungarian Parliament or to the citizens of Hungary. The words in that last sentence are chosen carefully and with meaning. This blogpost suggest that Article 10 TEU may provide a basis for the exclusion of Hungarian representatives from the European Council and the Council of the European Union.

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