Polish MEPs in rule of law strife with EC V-P

2019-09-05 19:23 update: 2019-09-07, 15:10
MEPs from Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) and EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans on Thursday went into a sharp exchange in an EP debate on strengthening the rule of law in Europe.

During a joint sitting of the EP's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and Legal Affairs Committees Timmermans summarised the EC's July-adopted position on the rule of law, which foresees regular rule of law audits in the member states, obliges the member states to file annual reports in the matter, and introduces a new strategy in EU law violation proceedings.

Referring to Poland, which is in a rule of law conflict with the EC over judicial reforms, Timmermans stressed that courts had to be independent, whereas the Polish government was trying to harness the country's judicial system to its political ends. He also reminded that Polish judges who complained to him about the situation in Brussels were then put under various kinds of pressure in Poland.

Timmermans stated that such conduct was unacceptable, and remarked that only several years ago it would have been unimaginable.

In response, Law and Justice's Beata Kempa said that in opposing her government's judicial reforms  Timmermans was in fact "defending a justice system that has remained unchanged since Poland regained independence in 1989." referring directly to Timmermans' stance on the Polish reforms, she added that the Poles "have survived Soviet commissioners, so we will survive you too."

Another PiS MEP, Jadwiga Wisniewska, accused the EC Vice-President of using double standards, and especially voiced surprise at his criticism of changes in the Polish constitutional court when he himself came from Holland, a country that had no constitutional court at all.

In his reply, Timmermans argued that one could not practice majority-based democracy without adherence to the rule of law. Timmermans called the Polish side's reasoning unacceptable and similar to that of European dictators in the 1930s, and in this context reminded that verdicts passed by Nazi courts were all well-anchored in the law although they were in complete contradiction to the rule of law.

After the sitting Kempa told reporters that Timmermans had "a personal problem with Poland," and suggested that Poland's rule of law conflict with the EC could take a different course if someone else took the case over on the Commission's side. (PAP)

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