MEPs raise alarm on rule of law in Poland

epa07542379 Residents and tourists walk with Polish flags during the ceremony of raising the Polish State Flag at the Clock Tower of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, 02 May 2019. National Flag Day is intended to bring to mind the symbols of national identity and patriotism. EPA-EFE/LESZEK SZYMANSKI POLAND OUT

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The attacks on the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Poland need to be addressed urgently, say a majority of MEPs in the Civil Liberties Committee.

 

In a committee debate on Monday, Spanish MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar presented his draft interim report on the December 2017 European Commission proposal to act in view of the perceived threats to the independence of the judiciary in Poland. He pointed to the recent worrying developments in the country related to the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights.

Judicial independence, democratic institutions and fundamental rights under threat

Afterwards, the President of the European Association of Judges, José Igreja Matos, and a representative of the Polish judges association IUSTITIA, Joanna Hetnarowicz-Sikora, presented a series of concerns linked primarily to judicial independence and the rule of law. They also mentioned other worries around democracy and elections, as well as fundamental rights (especially those of minorities), such as the freedom of speech and assembly, and their curtailment in light of the pandemic.

Most MEPs shared the concern over the state of EU core values in the country. They referred to a systematic and continuing attack against judicial independence and democratic institutions, which poses a threat to the very structure of the EU, and called for decisive action by the Council and the Commission, including budgetary measures, in order to protect EU core values.

Some speakers mentioned that further input from the Polish authorities is necessary to have a balanced debate, while several references were made to the need for an independent, permanent EU mechanism to ensure that monitoring processes in the area of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights remain impartial and objective.

MEPs have until 28 May to table amendments to the draft interim report. The committee will vote on the text in July, with the plenary vote scheduled in September 2020.

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