Correspondent in Brussels
The European Commission yesterday sent a letter to the Polish Government asking how it is going to apply the ruling of the European Court of Justice of last Thursday in which it is considered that the creation of the disciplinary section of the Supreme Court it does not respect the essential principles of the EU. The letter also includes a warning that if Warsaw does not comply with the sentence, severe financial penalties may be required. The announcement of the dispatch of this letter coincided with the publication of the annual report on respect for the rule of law in all countries and which has confirmed that the pulse between the Community Executive and the Governments of Poland and Hungary is dangerously rising and may affect the European institutions themselves.
The Vice President Vera Jourova He wanted to explain when giving an account of the result of the Commission meeting that at the time of approving the report there was no unanimity, but that it was processed “with the reservation of two commissioners” who are supposed to have been the Polish Janusz Wojciechowski, in charge of agriculture, and the Hungarian Oliver Varhelyi, responsible for the expansion portfolio. Theoretically, the commissioners do not represent their country in the Commission, but rather their task is to defend community interests. Legally, their role is to ensure that the treaties are precisely complied with. For this reason, it is a collective body and decisions are made by consensus. That on this occasion it has become clear that the commissioners of Poland and Hungary have voted against a report of this caliber can only be interpreted as that the crisis has reached the heart of the European institution and this may end up having very serious consequences and even now unknown.
In fact, Poland and Hungary monopolize the Commission’s biggest concerns regarding issues with the fundamental principles in this report. Also Slovenia, which this semester holds precisely the rotating presidency, but never with the level of conflict that the situation in the other two countries has reached, which are at a level of conflict unprecedented in the history of the EU.
This second annual evaluation by the Commission shows a “positive evolution” in most Member States, but insists on the “serious problems” and “concerns” about the attitude of governments or about the independence of the judiciary and the situation of the media in the two countries mentioned. Neither one nor the other have resolved the issues that were pointed out last year as reproaches and that also remain in several punitive actions already initiated, both by the Commission and Parliament and by the European courts.
In Hungary, the trend is “towards a reduction of existing safeguards” in the judicial system and, in the image of Poland, the influence of the Curator Viktor Orban’s Executive in the functioning of the judiciary is “growing”, according to the report, also presented by the Commissioner for Justice, the Belgian Didier Reynders.
The reforms of the judicial system in Poland, including recent decisions to challenge the primacy of European law, remain a source of “serious concern”, as well as the lack of effectiveness in the fight against corruption, deterioration of press freedom, the pressure on the system of checks and balances, as well as the weakening of women’s rights and attacks on LGBT groups.
Jourová, who is a Czech national, warned when speaking of the message she sent to Warsaw that “we do not live in an à la carte European Union, where you can take what you like and leave what you don’t”, and has given the Polish Government until August 16 to respond before sending the case back to the European Court, which could decide to apply economic sanctions to this country.
Last Wednesday, the Polish Constitutional Court ruled that European law does not take precedence over the Polish constitution and that “the European Union cannot replace the Member States in creating regulations on the court system and guaranteeing the independence of the courts. judges ». The Polish ruling was issued minutes after European judges published theirs from Luxembourg saying that Poland should immediately suspend “the application of national provisions relating, in particular, to the powers of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court”, because they consider that the system of disciplinary responsibility for Polish judges is incompatible with European law. The Luxembourg court also stated that the process of appointing Supreme Court judges, including members of the Disciplinary Chamber, depends largely on the body (the National Council of the Judiciary), “whose structure has undergone very important changes due to part of the Polish Executive and whose independence may raise justified doubts ”.
For now, the Polish Government and the Supreme Court justices have said that they do not intend to comply with this ruling and that the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court will continue to function, contrary to the criteria of European justice. The President of the Supreme Court, Malgorzata Manowska, It has said that it would not suspend the activities of the room and has published a statement in which it states that it was “awaiting the decision of the rulers” on this matter, which is a clear gesture in which its degree of independence is clearly appreciated and that this is very small.