European Union lifts threat of sanctions against Poland

(Brussels) A “new chapter” in EU-Poland relations: Brussels announced on Monday its intention to end a procedure which had targeted Warsaw for six years due to attacks on the independence of justice accused of the former government nationalist.

For the European Commission, which welcomes the efforts undertaken by the government of Donald Tusk, “there is no longer a clear risk of a serious violation of the rule of law in Poland within the meaning of Article 7 of the Treaty of the EU”.

Warsaw immediately welcomed “good news”. “This strengthens Poland within the European Union (…) There is no longer this negative shadow over us,” reacted the Minister of Development and Regional Policies, Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz, on the TVN24 channel.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, welcomed a “new chapter for Poland”, congratulating the authorities of this country for this “major progress”.

In a previously unprecedented approach, the European executive activated Article 7 against Poland in December 2017, in reaction to the judicial reforms implemented by the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), in power until 2023. , accused of undermining the independence of judges.

This European procedure, intended to sanction a member country where a “serious violation” of the rule of law is noted, can in theory go as far as a suspension of this country’s voting rights within the Council of the EU.

It was also triggered against Viktor Orban’s Hungary, this time at the initiative of the European Parliament, in September 2018, due to a “systemic” threat weighing on the values ​​of the EU in this country. .

In both cases, the procedure gave rise to hearings of ministers in front of their EU peers. However, Member States have never taken the next steps. The mutual support between Hungary and Poland made a decision on this sensitive issue unthinkable.

But EU-Warsaw relations have experienced a revival since the defeat of PiS in the legislative elections of October 2023 and the coming to power of pro-European forces led by Donald Tusk.

Release of funds

The European executive highlights that this country has launched a series of measures to improve the independence of its judicial system, has recognized the primacy of European law, and is committed to implementing the decisions of the EU justice system and the European Court of Human Rights.

Brussels welcomes the action plan on the rule of law presented in February by Warsaw, as well as this country’s participation in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The Commission’s decision will be submitted to the ministers of the 27 at the General Affairs Council on May 21, during which they will be able to present their observations. The Commission will then formally end the procedure.

In February, the Commission had already highlighted Warsaw’s rule of law efforts to announce the release of European funds previously frozen due to controversial PiS reforms. This paved the way for more than 136 billion euros in payments by 2027.

After Poland’s withdrawal, Hungary will be the only Member State covered by the Article 7 procedure.

However, another country has raised concerns within the EU in terms of respect for the rule of law: Slovakia, since populist Prime Minister Robert Fico came to power in October 2023.

The European Commission particularly denounced the abolition of a specialized prosecutor’s office which monitored high-level corruption cases.

The Commissioner for Values ​​and Transparency, Vera Jourova, warned in January that the EU could take financial sanctions against the country if protection against corruption was not guaranteed.


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