Poland's 'refusal to accept Muslim migrants behind EU censure process'
Poland slammed on Wednesday the EU’s move to launch disciplinary proceedings against it over its judicial reforms, saying the decision was “political” and related to Warsaw’s refusal to accept Muslim migrants.
Explaining the decision to trigger what is known as Article 7, which could lead to sanctions against Poland, EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans said "we are doing this for Poland, for Polish citizens" so they can rely on a fully independent judiciary in their nation, which is a key underpinning of EU principles.
However, a spokeswoman for the ruling Law and Justice party denounced the decision and said it may be connected to the right-wing party’s immigration policies.
"This may be an effect not only of the opposition's informing [on Poland to the European Commission] but also because we don't want to accept immigrants, we don't want to accept Muslim migrants, as we care for the security of Poles," Beata Mazurek said on Wednesday.
Sometimes called the "nuclear option," Article 7 has never been triggered against a member state before.
The move is widely seen as a sign of the EU’s serious concern about new laws that Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has enacted during its two years in power that give it greater control over the justice system.
Two of the new laws — one on the Constitutional Tribunal and another giving the justice minister power to name the presidents of all ordinary courts — have already taken effect, despite warnings from the EU.
Brussels, which has been struggling to keep the recalcitrant member state on a democratic path, says the reforms threaten the rule of law.
Only the next stage of the process would involve sanctions, including the loss of voting rights in the Council. This step, however, is considered unlikely to happen because it requires unanimity of EU countries and Hungary's government has vowed to block any such move.
Zbigniew Ziobro, who is both justice minister and prosecutor general as part of the changes, which have hugely strengthened his powers, said he received the news with "calm" and said Poland's government "must continue the reforms."
He insisted the provisions were drawn from the justice systems of Western EU members.
Two additional laws have been passed by parliament and still await the signature of the president.
The Commission must now submit a request to the EU member states to declare "a clear risk of serious breach of the rule of law" in Poland. That is essentially a warning, or in EU lingo, a "preventative" measure, that will require that acceptance of 22 EU countries.
Poland has been given three months to address the concerns.