I regret to say that the recent developments show that the situation has not improved since the last plenary debate in February. Rule of law concerns still persist. The commission will use all the instruments at its disposal to address them – said the Vice President of the European Commission, Vera Jourová, adding that the Commission intends “to continue an open dialogue with the Polish authorities”.
Jourová: No place for discrimination in the European Union.
Later, she addressed the issue of the "LGBTI-free zones". - We are fully aware of the fact that more than a 100 regions and municipalities have adopted charters, declarations and resolutions, several of which, regrettably, demonstrate the aim to deny fundamental rights and freedoms to LGBTI persons. I want to stress that everyone deserves to be treated equally. The European Commission strongly condemns any form of discrimination, violence and hatred against LGBTI persons and activists. Discrimination against LGBTI people has no place in the European Union – she stated.
Veld: Poland is crossing red line after red line.
Sophie in 't Veld, the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe: - It is now almost three years since the Commission has launched the art. 7 procedure against Poland and we’re still going in circles. Since then, we see Poland crossing red line after red line, and the strategy of the member states is appeasement. In the meantime, the situation got worse, obviously. We see LGBTI-free zones in Poland. We see the return of witch hunts in Europe, something I thought I’ll never see.
She asked the Commission and the Council why they fail to deliver on their commitments. – After three years I don’t want to hear the word dialogue anymore. We’ve been in dialogue with Mr. Orban for 10 years, and look at where we are now. Dialogue equals impunity by now. It is time for action – she said. – How can we have moral authority when we’re giving support the people of Belarus when we are too chicken to tackle the governments of Poland and the government of Hungary. It’s time to act now –she concluded.
Law and Justice MEPs are against the resolution
On Thursday, the Parliament will vote on passing a resolution concerning “the determination of a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law” prepared by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). As the members of the Committee point out, since the triggering of the Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union procedure, “the rule of law situation in Poland has not only not been addressed but has seriously deteriorated”.
When LIBE voted on passing the draft proposal in July, the Law and Justice MEPs voted against it. The resolution includes over 60 provisions pointing out particular violations committed by the Law and Justice government since it came to power in 2015. Listing and referring to subsequent issues, the European Parliament not only „notes” or “reiterates”, but also “expresses its deep concern”, “seriously deplores” and “condemns”.
A few days ago, Sylwia Spurek, a Polish MEP who is also a member of the Committee, announced that the final amendments to the proposal have already been submitted. One of them addresses the so-called “LGBTI-free zones” whose applications for financing projects within the EU twinning project framework have been rejected back in July. One of the districts that adopted such discriminatory legislation and saw its funding cut by the European Commission, Tuchów, then received three times as much money from the Minister of Justice. Moreover, the Minister announced further financial support for other municipalities suffering the consequences of the EU’s “ideological harassment”.
The proposal states that the creation of such zones “violates fundamental rights and fuels more hatred, fear and threats against LGBTI+ people in Poland”. In this context, the resolution also emphasizes that “spending under cohesion funds must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation”. The European Parliament calls on the Polish government “to ensure the legal protection of LGBTI people against all forms of hate crime and hate speech”.
European Parliament addresses the Istanbul Convention, courts and the Polish Ombudsman
But the European Parliament is also „deeply concerned by the Polish Deputy Minister of Justice’s recent declaration that Poland should denounce the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention)”, and “encourages the Polish authorities to give practical and effective application to that Convention”.
Other issues addressed by the European Parliament concern the functioning of the Polish legislative and electoral system, the independence of the judiciary and the rights of judges, and the protection of fundamental rights.
Moreover, the resolution also refers the reform of the Polish justice system, changes in the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Tribunal, and the National Council of the Judiciary. It denounces the merger of the office of the Minister of Justice and that of the Prosecutor General, and is “concerned about political attacks on the independence of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights”. The European Parliament also “urges the Polish authorities to refrain from applying criminal sanctions to people who participate in peaceful assemblies or counter-demonstrations and to drop criminal charges against peaceful protester”.
European Parliament calls on the Polish government to follow the rule of law
The European Parliament has called on the Polish government „to comply with all provisions relating to the rule of law and fundamental rights enshrined in the Treaties, the Charter, the ECHR and international human rights standards, and to engage in an honest dialogue with the Commission”. Turning to the European Commission, the Parliament urged it “to make full use of the tools available to it, (including the “budgetary tools”) to address a clear risk of a serious breach by Poland of the values on which the Union is founded”. It has also urged the European Council “to finally act under the Article 7(1) TEU procedure by finding that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law”.
-Of course, we acknowledge and respect all debates taking place in the European Parliament, but, all too frequently, the arguments raised during these discussions have little to do with the actual state of affairs. Moreover, when we compare legal solutions effective in Poland to those implemented by other EU member states, we see nothing but a complete analogy – said the spokesperson for the Polish government, Piotr Müller, before the debate.
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