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Last week the Dutch parliament took an unprecedented step in reaction to the decision of the Polish constitutional court. It denounced the actions taken by the Polish court, and called for all EU funding to Poland to be stopped. By proclaiming that EU law is second to Polish law, the Polish constitutional court placed Poland outside of the EU legal system. Any further steps down this road will lead to a Polexit. The resolution of the Dutch parliament aims to prevent that. The whole of Europe saw and heard the Polish people who took to the streets to protect their future in the EU. These protests are a warning to the Polish government and a wake-up call for the EU as a whole. The Dutch parliament stands firmly with the Polish people in their struggle to uphold common European values.
The deterioration of the Polish legal system harms the fabric of the EU and is detrimental for the Polish people and economy. With a court that is increasingly controlled by the ruling party, European citizens are not guaranteed a fair treatment by the Polish courts. The rights and freedoms that every citizen should have in the EU, are no longer protected in Poland. Furthermore, investors can no longer trust that their investments are safe in Poland. They cannot trust that contracts are upheld and property rights are respected by the Polish state. As such the investment climate deteriorates, which in turn results in less employment and less economic development in Poland. By placing itself outside of the EU legal system, Poland effectively took away the independent protection that citizens and investors should be able to count on.
The Polish government has overplayed its hand by demanding that the EU legal system should be interpreted as an à la cart menu. On the one hand Polish government denounces the authority of the EU court, while simultaneously asking for its help in striking down the EU rule of law conditionality, which makes EU funds conditional to the respect for the rule of law. The European community can no longer stand by and watch as this happens. The resolution passed on Thursday by the Dutch parliament asks the Dutch government to freeze the funds associated with the Polish recovery plan until the judicial system is restored. In addition, the Dutch parliament requests that the Commission investigate all possible ways in which all EU funding to Poland can be suspended.
Financial measures against the Polish government are the only way in which the EU can prevent the Polish government from taking any further steps towards a real Polexit and harm Polish citizens. In the end, Poland stands to lose more from the current Polish government than from EU sanctions imposed on that government. Suspending EU funds effectively dries up PiS financial resources to please its cronies and electorate with money out of the EU budget.
In over 6 years, dialogue and legal actions have failed to change PiS’s course. PiS is willingly leading Poland out of the EU. Polish citizens, now and in the future, have the right to enjoy the stability, prosperity and freedom that the EU has to offer. The momentum for change is now. The Dutch parliament stands by the people of Poland in bringing about that change, and so should the rest of the EU.
The author is a member of the Dutch Parliament. He represents the liberal progressive D66 party
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