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The European Commission wants to assume new powers

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By Olivier Bault.

Poland – After Frans Timmermans, the first Vice-President of the Commission, on July 19, threatened Poland with a recourse to Article 7 of the EU Treaty on bills reforming justice which have been under discussion in the Parliament of Warsaw. The European Commission repeated their threat of sanctions against the government of Beata Szydło on Saturday.

Of the three bills under discussion (on ordinary courts, on the Judicial Council and on the Supreme Court), only the first one was finally adopted, the other two having been vetoed by President Andrzej Duda. The latter promised to propose his own projects on the basis of those he refused on July 24, but without the provisions he considered to be in breach of the Constitution. Democracy and the rule of law are working well in Poland with no need of Timmermans and the Brussels Commission. The constitutionality of the laws is controlled by the President (to reject his veto, Parliament must have a 3/5 majority which is out of PiS’s reach) and by the Constitutional Court.

But for Commissioner Timmermans, as the Polish courts are also European Union courts, the Commission would naturally have jurisdiction to put its nose into the organization of the judicial institution of each EU member state, even if such competence is not enshrined in the treaties. To reach this goal, the Commission is ready to search for every possible reason. As Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán once again made it very clear that his country would block any attempt by the European Council to use Article 7 against Poland (which would deprive Warsaw of its voting rights in the European institutions), the Commission threatened on Saturday to attack the new Polish law on ordinary courts before the EU Court of Justice on the grounds that it aligns the retirement age of judges with the general scheme: 65 for men and 60 for women (following the restoration of the retirement age to 67 for all under the previous government). Even though it is the age at which Poles can retire but are not obliged to do so, and even if it was already the retirement age in force when Poland joined the EU in 2004, the Commission now sees discrimination between men and women which is unlawful regarding European treaties.

Originally published in French in Present.
Translated from French by the Visegrád Post.