Rule of law is laid down in the EU treaties as one of the values on which the Union is based. It means that governments should be bound by law, that they should not take arbitrary decisions and that citizens should be able to challenge their actions in independent courts.
In view of possible democratic backsliding in Poland and in particular due to the threat to judicial independence, the European Commission initiated in December 2017 an Article 7 procedure to address a possible risk of breach of EU common values.
The Parliament has ever since repeatedly asked the Council to act and in September 2020 warned about the continuous deterioration of the situation in the country, pointing to “overwhelming evidence” of those breaches. Following the October 2021 ruling by the Polish Constitutional, the Polish government’s challenge of the established primacy of EU law was added to Parliament’s long list of concerns.
These include the powers to revise the constitution taken on by the Polish parliament since 2015, expedited legislative procedures and electoral law changes; the broad changes to the country’s judiciary, including appointments and disciplinary procedures; the situation of freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism; and the criminalisation of sexual education and the de facto ban on abortion.
An EP delegation visited Warsaw between 21-23 February. MEPs met politicians, judges, civil society and journalists to assess the rule of law situation, in the framework of the ongoing Article 7 procedure.