Poland’s Clock Ticking: EU Ready to Suspend Voting Rights

Written by | Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

The EU warned Poland that it was ready to resort to unprecedented sanctions next month unless the Polish government makes “a lot of progress” in the dispute over its controversial laws restricting the country’s judiciary. The EU launched a process that could lead to Poland losing its EU voting rights if it continues pursuing reforms that pose a systematic threat to the rule of law.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said earlier this week that Warsaw would face the “full spectrum” of options when European affairs ministers meet again in June prior to an EU leaders’ summit.

“We’ve made some progress but we still think there is a room for a lot more progress so that we are in a position to say no systemic threat,” Mr. Timmermans said. “It could mean that the Commission (and) Poland make so much progress that we say that there is no longer a systemic threat to the rule of law. It could also be on the other side of the spectrum that we do not advance at all anymore, and we have to ask the Council to engage in the follow-up phase of Article Seven.”

The next phase of the process would include an organization of a hearing into whether to move forward down the path to the implementation of Article Seven of the EU treaty. Poland’s right-wing government that started making changes to the judiciary shortly after it came to power in 2015 says the reforms are needed to address corruption and revamp the judicial system that is still haunted by the communist legacy. Meanwhile, the EU has warned Poland multiple times that the reforms are seen as a threat to democracy. Sanctions would have to be unanimously supported by all EU member states – except Poland.

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