Within just three months after its election, the Polish Government has taken an alarming authoritarian turn that involves:
1. Crippling the functioning of its constitutional court by illegally disqualifying a substantial number of its judges, and
2. Speedily pushing through a media reform that renders directors of public TV and radio directly responsible to the Government by changing the appointment procedure and depriving the supervisory council of its powers.
Making use of the ‘pre-Article 7’ rule of law mechanism for the first time since its adoption, the Commission is set to launch an investigation.
Considering the confidential nature of the dialogues between the Commission and the Member State concerned, how is the Commission going to communicate its findings to Parliament?
Is there a specific timeline envisioned for the three main procedural stages? In particular, are there any deadlines governing the issuance of a Commission opinion, the issuance of a Commission recommendation in the event of non-compliance, and the ‘follow-up’ stage in which the Commission determines whether to initiate the article 7 procedure or not?
Given that there is, to date, no clear definition of the notion of ‘systemic threat’ to the rule of law, the Commission is asked to explain the criteria used, and to clarify how a systemic threat is different from a ‘systemic violation’ in this case.
Joint answer given by First Vice-President Timmermans on behalf of the Commission
Written questions: E-000465/16 , E-000615/16 , E-000292/16 , E-000408/16 , E-000300/16
At the Parliament's plenary debate on the situation in Poland on 19 January 2016, the Commission set out the reasons why it decided to assess the recent developments in Poland to which the Honourable Members refer under the Rule of Law Framework.
The Commission is currently assessing the situation in a dialogue with the Polish authorities based on its competences under the Treaties. There are no specific time limits which apply for completing the different steps under the framework. If the situation can be resolved, there will be no need for next steps. As set out in the communication on the Rule of Law Framework, the European Parliament and the Council will be kept regularly and closely informed of progress made in each of the stages.
The Commission recalls that, as explained in the communication on the Rule of Law Framework(1), the framework will be activated in situations where the authorities of a Member State are taking measures or are tolerating situations which are likely to systematically and adversely affect the integrity, stability or the proper functioning of the institutions and safeguard mechanisms established at national level to secure the rule of law. In such situations the framework will be applied, if infringement proceedings cannot be used to address the threat.
(1) Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council ‘A new EU Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law’, COM(2014)0154 final/2.