mercredi 19 juillet 2017

Poland moves towards authoritarianism - Will the EU defend liberal democratic values?


WARSAW — Poland’s populist government accelerated its efforts on Wednesday to control the nation’s judiciary — the last government institution offering resistance to its rule — prompting threats of sanctions from the European Union and street protests.

New measures, which would allow the government to choose judges for all the nation’s courts, were introduced barely two weeks after President Trump paid a triumphant visit in which he praised the governing Law and Justice Party. The proposed changes drew widespread condemnation as an assault on democracy, and they set up a confrontation with the opposition and the public.


The conflict over the judiciary has been simmering for some time. One proposed law, already approved by Parliament and waiting President Andrzej Duda’s signature, would reconfigure Poland’s National Council of the Judiciary, which chooses those eligible to become judges, so that government-appointed members have effective veto power.

A second bill, unveiled late last week, would force the resignations of all current members of the Supreme Court, several of whom have been feuding with the government, replacing them with judges selected by the ruling party’s Minister of Justice.

“Their goal is to create political control over the judiciary,” said Adam Bodnar, Poland’s official ombudsman, who has come out against the laws. “I don’t have doubts about it.”


The European Commission is “very close” to triggering the EU’s Article 7 procedure against Poland — a move that can lead to the suspension of a member country’s voting rights, Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday.

The Commission will also prepare to start infringement proceedings against Warsaw for breaching EU law over its plans to bring the judiciary under government control, Timmermans told reporters.

Timmermans said triggering Article 7 — sometimes described as the EU’s “nuclear option” — was “part of the discussion” on Poland. “Given the latest developments, we are coming very close to triggering Article 7,” he said.

The EU has never used Article 7, which was established more than 17 years ago as a way to ensure “that all EU countries respect the common values of the EU.”


Under EU law, the Commission may determine “that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State” of the EU’s fundamental values. The Commission’s decision would then set in motion a process that could lead to the country losing its right to vote in the Council.

Nevertheless, the loss of voting rights under Article 7 requires the unanimous consent of all EU member countries — and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has stated that he would veto any attempt to sanction Poland.

The EU looked on when Hungary moved towards what its leader openly called "illiberal democracy". By demonstrating that the EU wouldn't act when authoritarian leaders were busy chipping away at the rule of law slowly but methodically they only encouraged others who shared the same kind of illiberal mindset. It's important that many EU countries are very, very new to democracy. Even the countries that were nominally democratic before they fell behind the iron curtain were still very flawed democracies.

Requiring consensus on the most important issues is one of strongest and most fundamental strengths in the EU but also one of the most serious weaknesses. Acting against one single rogue authoritarian element would be easier but when multiple ones are holding each-others backs it's hard, if not impossible, to do in practice.

via International Skeptics Forum

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