The European Commission launched a preliminary assessment under rule of law mechanism against Poland, EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans informed. “The purpose of the process we have launched is to clarify the facts in an objective way, assess the situation in more depth and start a dialogue with Polish authorities without prejudging any possible next steps,” Timmermans said
It’s a first instance of such procedure has been launched. This legal measure created in 2014 after the EU was accused of failing to adequately deal with an analogical situation in Hungary. It can decide to suspend a nation’s EU voting right and access to EU funding if a ‘systemic threat’ to the rule of law is perceived to be present.
While the Commission did not go that far, it still expressed its concern at what is happening in Poland and declared its intention to enter into a serious, but cooperative dialogue with the government in Warsaw in order to gain more information to assess whether there is a real threat to the rule of law. The commission was unanimous in determining this solution: not a single commissioner voted against the measure.
The unease in Brussels has been caused by laws passed by the new government which allow them to ignore existing laws and appoint their own judges to the constitutional court, and to hinder the court’s ability to censure legislation. It also now has control over the appointment of the heads of public broadcasters. This has prompted some officials in the EU to worry about the state of judicial independence and freedom of speech in Poland, seeing the moves by the Law and Justice (PiS) majority government as attempts to drive out liberal European values.