Comment 25 Jul 17

Europe Must Respond to Threats to Liberal Values

As the crisis over the judiciary in Poland has shown, the EU must be more vigilant in defending values that both member states and candidate countries seem determined to test.

Toby Vogel
BIRN
Anti-government protesters raise candles and placards reading 'Constitution', as they gather in front of the Supreme Court in Warsaw. Amid protests, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that he will veto two contentious bills widely seen as assaults on the independence of the judicial system. Photo: Alik Keplicz/AP

For the past several months, the European Commission has been accused of inaction over moves by Hungary and Poland to strengthen the hold of ruling parties over the institutions of the state.

Instead of triggering Article 7 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, which could theoretically lead to a member state losing its voting rights, the Commission has been pursuing far less stringent approaches to try to get the two governments to change course.

In recent days, however, an unprecedented campaign by Poland’s conservative leadership against the country’s judiciary has brought the Commission to the point where it might trigger Article 7 for the first time.

At issue are draft laws submitted by the ruling Law and Justice Party, PiS, that would allow the government to replace judges on the Supreme Court and give parliament greater control over the judiciary.

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