Poland’s rule of law breakdown: a five-year assessment of EU’s (in)action

Pech, Laurent ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1608-1285, Wachowiec, Patryk and Mazur, Dariusz (2021) Poland’s rule of law breakdown: a five-year assessment of EU’s (in)action. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, 13 (1) . pp. 1-43. ISSN 1876-4045 [Article] (doi:10.1007/s40803-021-00151-9)

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To reinstate what amounts to a “Soviet-style justice system”, Polish authorities have repeatedly and deliberately violated the Polish Constitution and EU law. Rather than comprehensively detailing these repeated violations, this article focuses on the EU dimension of Poland’s rule of law breakdown. Using the activation of the Rule of Law Framework by the European Commission on 13 January 2016 as a starting point, this article offers a critical five-year assessment of EU’s (in)action starting with an overview of the extent to which virtually all of the multiple problematical issues identified early on by the Commission have yet to be addressed by Polish authorities by January 2021. Regarding the Commission and the Council’s (in)action, this article argues that the Commission has systematically acted in a too little too late fashion while the Council has systematically failed to meaningfully act, with the inaction of these two EU institutions amounting, at times, to dereliction of duties. By contrast, the Court of Justice has forcefully defended judicial independence whenever an infringement case was lodged with it by the Commission. The Court of Justice’s record in preliminary ruling cases is more mixed due, in part, to the Court’s apprehension to undermine the principle of mutual trust. The article ends with a list of key lessons and recommendations which reflect the EU’s few successes and many failures highlighted in this article. It is submitted inter alia that more statements, dialogue and reports are not going to help contain, let alone solve Poland’s rule of law crisis. It is indeed no longer a crisis the EU is facing but a total breakdown in the rule of law in Poland which, in turn, represents a threat to the interconnected legal order that underpins the EU.

Item Type: Article
Keywords (uncontrolled): Rule of Law, Poland, European Union, European Commission, Council of the EU, Court of Justice of the EU
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Law and Politics
Item ID: 33066
Notes on copyright: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Hague Journal on the Rule of Law. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40803-021-00151-9
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Laurent Pech
Date Deposited: 04 May 2021 15:06
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2021 19:32
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/33066

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