Congress of Polish Lawyers in Katowice
20 May 2017
During today’s Congress of Polish Lawyers in Katowice I presented a letter to representatives of the legal professions,… written and signed by Members of the European Parliament.
Strasbourg, 17th of May 2017
To the Congress of Polish Lawyers
Honourable representatives of the Polish Judiciary,
The latest efforts of the Polish government to reform the justice system have met with fierce criticism. To date, a number of national and international institutions have raised concerns about proposed legislation on the National Council of the Judiciary, laws regulating the functioning
of the court system, not to mention the Constitutional Tribunal.
Forthcoming new selection mode of the Council members allowing justice minister to appoint judges practically without the participation of the judiciary may be convincingly identified
as questionable in light of the European standards. Significant increase of the government’s ability
to influence court decisions raise serious concerns with respect to key democratic principles,
in particular the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. All of these are
a prerequisite for the respect for the fundamental values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty
of the European Union.
As jointly observed by the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (RECJ) —
the proposed regulations raise serious doubts as to their compliance with democratic standards.
It is possible that the amendments might entail negative effects on the separation of powers
and the independence of the judiciary, as they might lead to a decisive influence of politicians over the selection of judges. Similar positions with regard to the reforms have been expressed by the Polish Ombudsman, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the Polish National Council of the Judiciary.
As members of the European Parliament, we share these concerns, thereby confirming
the vital importance that the EU attaches to the shared principles which guarantee a proper functioning of democratic systems. Although their perception may vary in form and shape in each member state, the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary is a universal value enshrined in Polish Constitution, the EU treaties as well as other international declarations and conventions. The selection and appointment of judges should be based on objective criteria rather than on political affiliations.
In this light, we cannot allow politicisation of the appointment process of judges.
We are aware that we in the European Parliament should strengthen every effort which supports Polish society in order to prevent any possible danger that would jeopardise the independence
and impartiality of the judiciary. We will do everything which is in our competencies to assure access
to the independent, well-functioning, ethical and competent judiciary in Poland.
We support your line of defence against the reforms. We admire your strength and courage. We also understand how significant it is to promote awareness of the separation of powers
for the proper functioning of democracy – a common goal for both us in the European Parliament
and you as legal professionals.
Finally, we express our hope that this gathering, supported by various respectable institutions, will help to increase awareness among Polish government that there is no consent for changes
to the justice system which are inconsistent with the fundamental principles of a democratic state.
Yet again, it needs to be stressed that the separation of powers is key to a well-functioning democracy!
We welcome the debate at the Congress today and wish you a lot of success.
Jan Philipp Albrecht MEP, Germany, Greens/EFA
Heinz K. Becker MEP, Austria, EPP
Michal Boni MEP, Poland, EPP
Carlos Coelho MEP, Portugal, EPP
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt MEP, Sweden, EPP
Frank Engel MEP, Luxembourg, EPP
Ana Gomes MEP, Portugal, S&D
Esteban González Pons MEP, Spain, EPP
Rebecca Harms MEP, Germany, Greens/EFA
Gunnar Hökmark MEP, Sweden, EPP
Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, the Netherlands, ALDE
Jeroen Lenaers MEP, the Netherlands, EPP
Krystyna Łybacka MEP, Poland, S&D
Roberta Metsola MEP, Malta, EPP
Claude Moraes MEP, UK, S&D
Julia Reda MEP, Germany, Greens/EFA
Marietje Schaake MEP, the Netherlands, ALDE,
Birgit Sippel MEP, Germany, S&D
Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein MEP, Poland, EPP
Cecilia Wikström MEP, Sweden, ALDE
Tomáš Zdechovský MEP, Czech Republic, EPP