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Rule of LawPoland

EU to drop action against Poland on 'rule of law' concerns

May 6, 2024

Proceedings were launched by the EU in 2017 over concerns that an overhaul of Poland's judiciary under the previous government represented a "clear risk" to rule of law.

Donald Tusk and Ursula von der Leyen speak to the press after a meeting on February 23, 2024
The government headed by Donald Tusk has taken a more pro-EU track Image: REUTERS

The EU said on Monday it will drop proceedings against Poland launched six years ago over concerns that judicial reforms posed a risk to the rule of law in the country. 

The new centrist government in Warsaw had launched a series of legislative and non-legislative measures to address concerns about the independence of the justice system.

According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the bloc's executive arm no longer believes there is a risk to the rule of law in Poland. 

"Today marks the opening of a new chapter for Poland," von der Leyen said in a post on X.

Poland hails EU's decision

Poland's government welcomed the EU's decision to drop a six-year-old rule of law case that could have cost Warsaw its voice in the bloc's affairs.

"This is obviously good news for Poland. It strengthens Poland's position in the European Union and makes us a strong player. There is no longer a dark shadow over us," Funds and Regional Policy Minister Katarzyna Pelczynska Nalecz told private broadcaster TVN.

The Polish Ministry of Justice stated that it had taken "a number of legislative and non-legislative actions to address concerns about the independence of the judiciary."

What were the EU's concerns based on?

Poland's conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which headed the government for eight years, carried out a sweeping overhaul of the judiciary. The EU saw that overhaul as undermining democratic checks and balances and bringing the courts under political influence.

In response, the EU began so-called "Article 7" procedures, which can suspend certain rights of a member state if it is persistently considered to breach the bloc's founding values.

The European Commission also held back billions of euros in funds earmarked for Poland.

However, the situation changed after the PiS lost the parliamentary elections in October to a coalition led by Donald Tusk, a pro-EU liberal, who vowed to mend relations with Brussels.

In February, the European Union welcomed a Polish plan to "restore the rule of law" and dismantle the policies of the former nationalist government.

The draft decision on Monday said that Poland has "recognized the primacy of EU law" and is committed to implementing European court judgements concerning the rule of law.

dh/wmr (dpa, AFP, Reuters)