The Disheartening Speech by the President of Bulgaria’s Supreme Court Which Nobody in Brussels Noticed

While many foreign commentators focus on the endangered democratic values in Poland and Hungary, the situation in Bulgaria is equally deplorable. If the President of the Supreme Court contends that there is no separation of powers and that his family is facing abuse because he turns down orders by the executive, then surely ordinary citizens, especially critics of the government, have no means to protect themselves from the rage of those who have captured the Bulgarian State.

Continue Reading →

The AG Opinion in the Celmer Case: Why the Test for the Appearance of Independence is Needed

In this post, I focus on what I believe is the most important question in the Celmer case: what kind of a test for the rule of law/fair trial, and with how many prongs? I argue that the rule of law/fair trial test that the Court should apply is the test for the appearance of independence, known from the practice of the ECtHR. I also argue that the Court should not leave the application of this test to the referring court but carry it out by itself.

Continue Reading →

Open Letter to Vice-President Frans Timmermans

If the law on the Polish Supreme Court enters into force in the beginning of July, as is currently planned, a large number of sitting judges of that Court will see their tenure unconstitutionally extinguished. In combination with an increase in the number of seats on the Supreme Court, this means that the newly politicized National Council of the Judiciary, elected by the governing party, will be in a position to appoint a majority of the judges on the Supreme Court. 23 legal and constitutional scholars have signed an open letter to urge the Vice President of the EU Commission to initiate an infringement procedure against Poland.

Continue Reading →

Crossing the Rubicon

During the last weeks, a group of Greek anarchists that go by the name of Rubicon has attacked the Council of State and a number of other public buildings. So pervasive is the activity of this group of disruptors that it has become the background to a new normality in Greece. Rubicon is not a terrorist group, it is not a political party, it is not a group of vigilante Robin Hoods. It is the symptom of a disease. The disease is the brutalisation of a frustrated, enraged society that hates everyone and also hates itself.

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 →

Selmayr’s Appointment: Why this Juncker Crisis is Much More Dangerous for the EU Commission than the Santer Crisis in 1999

The promotion of Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of cabinet Martin Selmayr to secretary general of the EU Commission has caused quite a stir in some parts of the press, but rather little critique in the EU Parliament, among EU lawyers and in the eurobubble in general. This episode will come back recurrently during the populist campaign against the EU institutions in 2019. And later it will still be used to weaken the Commission. 2019 will sadly be far from the end of this 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 →

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 →