EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders met on Friday with the first president of the Supreme Court, Małgorzata Manowska. She sent him a letter with her position and comments on the European Commission’s report on the rule of law in the European Union. According to Manowska, “the chapter on the situation in the field of the rule of law in Poland contains statements that arouse polemics, and sometimes are not factually correct”.
EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has been visiting Poland since Thursday. On Friday, he met, among others, with the first president of the Supreme Court, Małgorzata Manowska. “During the meeting, the First President of the Supreme Court handed the EU Commissioner a letter about the report of the European Commission” – stated in the Friday communiqué of the Supreme Court. It is about presented on Thursday to the Sejm by the commissioner “Rule of Law Report 2021”. It covers four areas: justice, anti-corruption framework, media pluralism and other institutional issues related to checks and balances.
Manowska on the EC report: statements that are factually inaccurate in some places
The Supreme Court published on its website the letter of the first president of the Supreme Court concerning the report of the European Commission, together with a commentary on the report.
“The chapter on the situation regarding the rule of law in Poland contains statements that provoke polemics and are sometimes factually incorrect,” wrote Małgorzata Manowska. She added that she considered “it necessary to present material addressed to the public, in which a fragment of the Report on the systemic role of the Supreme Court and the Polish judiciary is provided with comments”. “They contain references to selected findings and assessments contained in this document,” she explained.
“The comments and reservations made are an expression of commitment to the debate on the rule of law in this area where the Supreme Court acts as a judicial oversight body over the activities of common and military courts in the field of adjudication (Article 183 (1) of the Polish Constitution). They are also a response to inviting the European Commission to actively discuss the report by the relevant public authorities according to their institutional role “- added Manowska.
The Supreme Court supervises the activity of common and military courts in the field of adjudication.
In the EC report on the Polish judiciary, women’s and LGBTI rights
The report, which he presented on Thursday at the meeting of Reynders’ parliamentary committees, was published in the second half of July this year and concerns the situation as regards the rule of law in the European Union. EU officials then wrote that “a number of recent events have raised concerns as regards the respect for the primacy of EU law, which is essential for the functioning of the EU legal order and equality between Member States in the EU.”
“The reforms carried out since 2015 have increased the influence of the executive and legislative powers in the judiciary, to the detriment of the independence of judges, and prompted the Commission to initiate an Article 7 (1) TEU procedure, which is still pending. In April 2021, the Commission sent a case against Poland to the Court of Justice in connection with the Judiciary Act, which undermines the independence of judges and is inconsistent with EU law. In July 2021, the CJEU ordered interim measures in this case. temporary ones in the area of the judiciary are inconsistent with the Polish constitution, the European Commission wrote at the time.
In relation to our country, she added, inter alia, that “the civil society space is still strong, but has been affected by general problems regarding women’s rights and attacks against LGBTI groups.”
Didier Reynders on the judiciary: reforms remain a source of serious concern
Reynders stressed on Thursday at a meeting of parliamentary committees that the rule of law is the legal, political and economic basis of the EU, and that its violations affect other countries. He said that the report was part of the dialogue within the Union aimed at preventing or aggravating existing problems.
– As for the justice system [w Polsce – przyp. red.], we say in our report that reforms, including the latest developments, remain a source of serious concern, he said.
He said that “the reforms carried out since 2015 have increased the influence of the executive and legislative powers on the justice system to the detriment of the independence of judges” and prompted the European Commission to initiate a procedure under Art. 7 sec. 1 of the Treaty on European Union, which is still pending.
He recalled that in April this year the Commission referred a case against Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union in connection with the laws on the judiciary, which – he said – undermine the independence of judges and are inconsistent with EU law, and in July this year the CJEU ordered interim measures in this case . The EU Tribunal ordered the suspension of the activities of its Disciplinary Chamber, not recognized by the Supreme Court, which, in the opinion of many lawyers, judges and constitutionalists, is not a court within the meaning of the law.
Reynders pointed out that as a result of failure to comply with this order, Poland was imposed a daily fine, which is to be paid until all measures have been introduced or until a final judgment is issued in the case.
He recalled that also in July, the CJEU ruled that the disciplinary system for judges in Poland was inconsistent with EU law, and that the National Council of the Judiciary continued to operate despite questioning its independence.
The Supreme Court’s comment to the European Commission report: assessments presented biased
In a comment published on Friday on the website of the Supreme Court, it was assessed that a serious flaw in the EC’s report “lies in the vagueness of the theses formulated in it”. “It gives the impression of manipulating facts and presenting issues in a slogan manner, without any analysis of a specific problem in an analytical manner” – he added.
As stated by the Supreme Court, the procedure initiated by the European Commission “concerns only strictly defined aspects of the reforms, not the whole of them”. “The report contains biased assessments. This document does not take into account the arguments of both sides of the legal and political dispute in Poland over changes in the judiciary” – reads the commentary. “The Report consistently depreciates the role and status of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. Such action is another example of violating the principle of partnership between the Member States (and their bodies) and the EU institutions” – we read further.
The commentary also assessed that “from the point of view of the assessment of respect for the rule of law in a given Member State, it is doubtful to analyze the issue of sexual minorities’ rights or permissible conditions for terminating pregnancy”. “This matter does not concern the issue of the rule of law and should not be analyzed in the Report as an internal matter of a Member State” – it was written.
Main photo source: TVN24