European Commission declares one week deadline on Polish constitutional crisis

By bne IntelliNews May 18, 2016

The European Commission has drafted its opinion on the state of the rule of law in Poland, but has given Warsaw one week to achieve “significant progress” on deadlocked dispute over the country’s constitutional court, the EU executive said on May 18.

The European Commission has been probing Poland’s adherence to the rule of law – which is one of the cornerstones of Warsaw’s accession treaty to the bloc – since January. Brussels has raised significant concern over the ongoing standoff between the Law and Justice (PiS) government and the Constitutional Tribunal (TK), during which the government has attempted to diminish TK’s position for fear it would block its reforms. 

As the TK rejected the attempt, ruling it unconstitutional, the government responded with a refusal to publish the decision. Top Polish judiciary bodies insist that breaches the constitution.

The European Commission has now adopted a draft text of its opinion on the matter, but also has given Warsaw one week to achieve “significant progress to resolve the concerns,” it said in a statement. That, however, appears unlikely, as the government has reiterated on numerous occasions it would not back down. 

“If there is no significant progress by May 23, the Commission will adopt the draft opinion which the [Commission] discussed today," the statement reads. "The Commission would pursue the constructive dialogue with the Polish government with a view to finding solutions to the concerns set out in the opinion.”

Should no solution be found, the next step will be to issue a “recommendation” on how to solve the problem. If that fails, the so-called Article 7 Procedure could potentially be launched, which is a process that may lead to stripping Poland of its voting rights in the EU. The procedure is often referred to as the “nuclear option,” as it was set up mainly to threaten unruly states rather than to use; it has not yet been executed in any case.

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