The European Commission is one of the European Union (EU) bodies that addresses issues related to the rule of law in the EU. A European Commission website on the rule of law defines it as “one of the fundamental values of the Union, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. It is also a prerequisite for the protection of all the other fundamental values of the Union, including for fundamental rights and democracy. Respect for the rule of law is essential for the very functioning of the EU: for the effective application of EU law, for the proper functioning of the internal market, for maintaining an investment-friendly environment and for mutual trust. The core of the rule of law is effective judicial protection, which requires the independence, quality and efficiency of national justice systems.”
Discussion of rule of law issues in the EU was scheduled for two meetings of EU Ministers in their General Affairs Council meetings on 20 April and 11 May 2021.
Portugal currently holds the presidency of the European Commission. A letter regarding possible violations of the rule of law in Poland was sent on 19 April 2021 to the following Portuguese leaders of the European Commission presidency: Mariana Vieira da Silva, Minister of State for the Presidency, Ana Paula Zacarias, State Secretary for European Affairs, Rosa Monteiro, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality, Ana Mendes Godinho, Minister for Labor, Solidarity and Social Security, and Ambassador Nuno Brito, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the European Union.
The letter was drafted by a diverse group of European-based civil society organisations (CSOs) – including national, regional and international CSOs based in Europe – and circulated for signatures. It was signed by 207 CSOs, including a large number of national CSOs in Poland, national and regional CSOs in European countries, and international CSOs with regional offices in Europe.
The letter asks for the deteriorating situation in Poland as regards the rule of law to be discussed and action taken by the European Commission, pointing to a history going back to 2016 of problems that have been raised, not only in the European Commission, but also the European Parliament and the Court of Justice of the European Union. It expresses “grave concern that the lack of action since 2018 has empowered the Polish government to continue pursuing policies that seriously undermine the rule of law and affect the fundamental rights of people in Poland”, in relation to three main issues:
- erosion of judicial independence;
- violations of women’s rights, notably through the compromised Constitutional Tribunal in relation to legal restrictions on almost all abortions; and
- violations of the right to peaceful protest that especially target women’s rights organisations.
FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER and LIST OF SIGNATORIES ;
PHOTO and NEWS: IPPF-EN Alert for Poland