The European Union yesterday (1 June) formally warned Poland and urged it to find a solution to the constitutional crisis that followed after the government’s overhaul of the Constitutional Court. The opponents of the reform fear that the government had endangered the independence of the country’s top court. “We have decided to send a rule-of-law opinion to the Polish authorities,” European Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, commented and stressed that an “opinion” meant a warning.
Both Poland and the EU have had several rounds of talks with the aim to soothe a dispute over the Polish government’s reform of the constitutional court. Polish Justice Minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, however, called the criticism “one-sided” and added that he was surprised by the statement of the European Commission, saying that the EU’s executive body “has had a chance to see that the government was looking for a compromise.” Mr. Ziobro concluded that “It’s a one-sided opinion, showing a distorted image, despite the European Commission’s awareness of what the situation looks like.”
Since 2009, when the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, the European Commission has been authorized to use specific measures under Article 7 when a Member State commits serious breaches to the values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. When Article 7 is activated, the country violating some of these rights might temporarily lose EU membership rights. However, before such a decision can be made, the Council has to hear the Member State in question and may address the recommendations.