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Poland: PACE monitor urges all political parties to set aside narrow party interest and address the rule of law crisis

Ending a three-day visit to Warsaw, one of the two co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Poland, Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD), has called on all political parties to set aside narrow party political interest in order to overcome the rule of law crisis that is undermining the legal and social stability of the country.

“I continue to be deeply concerned with regard to the rule of law situation and judicial independence in the country,” said Mr Omtzigt. “The situation has continued to deteriorate since our last visit and many of the concerns outlined in PACE’s 2020 resolution on Poland, based on our report, have unfortunately proven to be true.”

“The legitimacy of key courts in the country is widely questioned domestically and internationally, including by both the European Court of Human Rights and the EU Court of Justice, and judicial efficiency is deteriorating. The political divisions and polarisation that prevent a constructive solution to this institutional crisis are overflowing to all levels of society, and this is of concern for Poland’s long-term democratic consolidation,” he added.

Mr Omtzigt underscored his concern that the chamber of the Polish Supreme Court which adjudicates on election complaints is no longer a tribunal established by law in the eyes of the European Court of Human Rights. This could give rise to uncertainty if the final election results are challenged, and could lead to an even deeper crisis. He urged all parties to resolve this issue before the upcoming elections.

The rapporteur called on all political forces and stakeholders to overcome narrow party political interest and to find a systemic solution to the institutional crisis. “Any solution should fully and structurally address the judgments of both the European Court of Human Rights and the EU Court of Justice. This will be impossible to do without addressing the manner in which the members of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS) are appointed, which undermines their independence. The current legislation that is now before the Constitutional Tribunal does not do this and therefore clearly will not be enough,” he said.

He underscored that the co-rapporteurs will continue to closely follow these developments in the context of the ongoing monitoring procedure in respect of Poland. In their view, he said, it would be impossible to end this procedure without resolving the institutional crisis and ensuring genuine independence of the judiciary at all levels.

PACE opened its monitoring of Poland on 28 January 2020. Poland is one of eleven Council of Europe member states subject to the full monitoring procedure. The other monitoring co-rapporteur, Azadeh Rojhan (Sweden, SOC), was unable to take part in the visit at the last moment.