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European Union. Article 7 towards Poland. Minister of Justice Adam Bodnar: what we are doing is enough to close this procedure

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Justice Minister Adam Bodnar expressed his belief in Brussels that although Poland is still in the process of restoring the rule of law, the prepared reform will be enough to close the procedure under Article 7. He emphasized that some of the announced laws may be implemented after the presidential elections due to President Andrzej's veto power. Bagpipe.

Bodnar took part in a seminar on restoring the rule of law organized by the Permanent Representation of Poland to the EU. The meeting took place on the eve of the meeting of EU ministers who will deal with the issue of completing the procedure under Art. 7 v. Poland.

As the minister said, it is not only about restoring the rule of law, but also about maintaining the stability of the Polish justice system. He added that the nine-point action plan, which will be the basis for closing the procedure under Art. 7, will not be implemented in a few weeks, but rather in months, and maybe even by mid-2025. Part of this plan includes, among others: the act on the National Council of the Judiciary and projects on the Constitutional Tribunal.

Bodnar emphasized that some of the laws announced in the plan may be implemented after elections presidential elections due to the president's veto power Andrzej Duda, although – as the minister announced – he himself will continue to try to communicate with the head of state. According to Bodnar, the main point of contention is the status of judges elected by the current National Council of the Judiciary. He noted that this “needs a separate act.” In his opinion, Monday's seminar in Brussels with the participation of legal circles showed that there are differences of opinion also between judges' associations and non-governmental organizations as to the status of the so-called neojudges.

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Changes regarding the justice system

The Minister of Justice stated that despite the presidential veto, the plan is and will be implemented. Thus, the bill on the National Council of the Judiciary has already passed from the Senate, and the drafts on the Constitutional Tribunal are in the Sejm. The government is to adopt “in the coming days” draft laws regarding the separation of the positions of the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor General and the organization of common courts. For the second half of the year, Bodnar announced work on regulating the prosecutorial service and the status of judges recommended by the current National Council of the Judiciary.

The head of the Ministry of Justice said that the situation is difficult because there is no “reference point that would allow shaping the current changes” due to the “democratic erosion of the Constitutional Tribunal.” Therefore, EU law and the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), as well as international standards such as the recommendations of the Venice Commission, used in the process of selecting court presidents, are a kind of lighthouse (because Polish regulations allow the Minister of Justice to dismiss a court president, but do not indicate how appoint a new one).

European Commission announced on May 6 that the procedure under Art. 7, because in her opinion there is no longer a threat to the rule of law in Poland. Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the rule of law, Vera Jourova, will inform the ministers' meeting on Tuesday about the reasons why the EC decided to do so. Ministers from EU countries will assess the EC's decision to end the procedure for Poland, but the final closure will be up to the EC. According to Bodnar, one of the topics of the Polish presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2025 should be the rule of law in the context of the fight for the rule of law in Poland.

The fight for the rule of law

Minister for the European Union Adam Szłapkawho also took part in the seminar, said that he did not question the importance of institutions that should guard the Polish legal order, as Supreme Court Whether Constitutional Court, but believes that civil organizations and free media should also protect the rule of law. According to the minister, these experiences should now be used to stimulate civil society in Europe.

The panel on the rule of law was attended by: judge Joanna Hetnarowicz-Sikora from the Management Board of the Association of Polish Judges “Iustitia”, Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik, a lawyer from the Free Courts initiative, and Małgorzata Szuleka, member of the management board of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

Hetnarowicz-Sikora, who talked about the situation of Polish judges in Poland in recent years, admitted that they had great support, among others. from the site CJEU and the ECtHR. In turn, Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik added that the key moment in the fight for the rule of law in Poland was the adoption of an almost complete ban on abortion by the “puppet” Constitutional Tribunal. – It was a pandemic and we couldn't protest, but people took to the streets anyway, risking their health and maybe even their lives. It was also a moment when young people understood that the rule of law also affects their lives, said the lawyer. She also added that the level of destruction of the rule of law in Poland is so deep that “even Adam Bodnar struggles with conflicting expectations.”

Article 7

Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union gives the EU the ability to discipline and punish countries that violate EU values. The procedure itself consists of several stages. The first is to recognize that there is a risk of violations in one of the countries (7.1.). Then, in the second step, all governments determine that the breach is persistent and serious (7.2.) and if this happens, they can proceed to the third step. This is what voting on sanctions is (7.3.).

The procedure under this article was launched against Poland on December 20, 2017.

READ MORE: The EU's “nuclear option”. What is Article 7?

Main photo source: roibu / Shutterstock.com

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