EU officials in dispute over punitive procedure against Poland: MEP
Ryszard Czarnecki, a MEP for Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, said on Thursday that there was a disagreement within the bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, over the punitive Article 7 procedure against Warsaw.
Czarnecki, a former vice-president of the European Parliament, told public broadcaster Polish Radio that the difference of opinion saw the Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans pitted against the Commission’s head Jean-Claude Juncker and Secretary-General Martin Selmayr, a German linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Juncker and Selmayr want to end a protracted dispute with Poland as soon as possible, while Timmermans wants the procedure to go on, according to Czarnecki.
Timmermans in mid-May said the EU executive would not withdraw its Article 7 disciplinary mechanism against Poland at this stage.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, in December took the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, stepping up pressure on Warsaw over controversial changes to the justice system by the country’s ruling conservatives.
The move meant that the EU’s executive wanted the bloc’s member states to declare that the rule of law in Poland was under threat. That could potentially pave the way for sanctions being imposed on Poland.
But the Polish government has since moved to modify the disputed legal changes.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz in early May met Timmermans in Brussels to brief him on planned new amendments to disputed laws regulating the work of the country’s court system, according to reports.
Poland’s lawmakers have since approved adjustments to regulations governing assistant judges and also voted to limit a contested procedure that allows “extraordinary appeals” for reopening closed court cases.
Officials in Warsaw were hoping the modifications would prove enough for the EU executive to stop the Article 7 procedure.
Czaputowicz in late March said that Poland wanted Brussels to withdraw its Article 7 procedure against Warsaw.
Timmermans in early April visited Warsaw to hold talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as well as Czaputowicz and presidential chief of staff Krzysztof Szczerski. He also met the heads of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal and Supreme Court.
Morawiecki and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker talked about the rule of law in Poland during a telephone conversation in late April.
The European Commission in early May proposed a new long-term budget for the EU. The plan introduces a mechanism that could financially penalise countries that are judged to have breached EU principles on the rule of law.