On Wednesday (19 July), Frans Timmermans criticised Polish efforts to reform the judiciary, considered threatening to the separation of powers, eroding democracy and rule of law. EURACTIV Poland reports.
The Dutch First Vice-President stated that European Commission is close to triggering Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, which envisages sanctions.
Ideological divisions in Poland, separating it into pro- and anti-government camps, were evident in official reactions to Timmermans’ invocation of Article 7.
Stanisław Pięta, a lawmaker with the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) commented, “Mr Timmermans doesn’t impress us at all.”
In an interview with the pro-government wPolityce, PiS MEP Zdzisław Krasnodebski (ECR) said that Timmermans’ threats are an “attempt at applying psychological pressure on PiS government”.
In Krasnodebski’s opinion, the “Commission’s role is not to run the Polish legislative process. A function of a European Commission vice-president is nowhere to be seen in the lawmaking process in Poland. The EC’s role is to guard the treaties and if, after a bill is passed, it decides the law has been violated, it is time to voice a problem and take action.”
In a discussion on the pro-PiS Republika TV channel, Marcin Horała, a PiS MP, said, “activating the Article 7 is completely impossible, requires 4/5 majority only to be launched. Hungary has already declared it wouldn’t support the procedure, which actually ends the whole fuss”.
Adam Andruszkiewicz, of Kukiz’15 – a party that often sympathises with the government – commented that “History teaches us that reporting against Poland has always ended badly. Who is Juncker or Timmermans to ask them about the situation in Poland?”
Polish opposition supports Timmermans
On the other hand Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the major opposition party Civic Platform (PO), warned the in the Sejm (the lower chamber of the Polish parliament) that Timmermans’ statement was “another signal for the people governing Poland that if their policy doesn’t change, if there’s no openness, no confirmation we wish to be a part of the EU, then this policy against judicial independence will end up pushing Poland out of the EU”.
Schetyna, together with Ryszard Petru, the leader of the second biggest opposition party, Nowoczesna (Modern), announced the close cooperation of their parties with Brussels, as well as a continuation of efforts against the implementation of the reform that the PiS proposes.
According to Nowoczesna MP Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, one of the most outspoken critics of the government, the entire “European Union sees the PiS break the law, (and) violate not only our common European standards but also the Polish constitution”.
Gasiuk-Pihowicz called Timmermans’ statement “words of the friends of Polish democracy” aimed at the PiS, not Poland.
According to PO lawmaker Rafał Trzaskowski, a former MEP and EU minister, Timmermans’ position shows that European Commission patience for Poland is at its end.
“A bill on the Supreme Court is so explicit in its politicisation of the judiciary that there’s no place for interpretations. The EC sees that the Constitutional Tribunal has been paralysed.”