From the front to the back of the classroom: European Union and Poland clash again

From the front to the back of the classroom: European Union and Poland clash again

Source: Pepijn Kouwenberg

For some time now, things have been rough between Poland and The European Union. Recently they came to a new clash, with the European Union threatening to impose fines for the judiciary reforms in Poland. These reforms are a serious threat to the Polish rule of law and do not comply with European law, according to the Union. Ever since the Law and order party (PiS) managed to achieve absolute majority in parliament in 2015, the eurosceptic party has been breaking down on LHBTIQ+ and abortion rights and have put serious pressure on judges and the rule of law in the country. It has come to the point that in a country within the European Union, judges are limited in their freedom to speak out freely in fear of losing their job or worse. One of those judges opens up, anonymously.

At what point in time did you
realise that the rule of law in Poland was under pressure and how did that unfold?
“When PiS, the ruling party, came to power, which was in autumn 2017. This is because changes in the law took place immediately, resulting in actions of the executive in the Constitutional Tribunal, the Supreme Court and common courts that were inconsistent with the principles of the rule of law.”

 You are willing to talk only anonymously. How dangerous is it for Polish Judges to speak out about the rule of law in the country?
“Answering the questions anonymously is much safer, because there were many cases when judges were held accountable for their acts that were allegedly violating the ethics of a judges profession. We are talking about cases wherein judges were speaking publicly about political topics, criticizing the government, taking a stand on human rights or giving their feedback on the work of state authority, which was supposed to be independent from executive authorities.”

Source: Pepijn Kouwenberg

The Polish Government has said to dismantle the disciplinary chambers but the European Commission replied that “has not taken all the measures necessary to fully comply” with the order what are your views on this

“It is often talked about within the judge community in Poland that actions taken by the government as an answer to European Commission’s requests are a mockery and do not really mean what they are supposed to mean. The government only tries to prevent itself from losing donations from the EU. There is concern that the disciplinary chamber will be brought back to life again. Nobody believes that the government’s goal is to obey EU law and will admit it as a mistake. We still think that the ruling party (PiS) will try to subordinate the judiciary to the executive.”

How do you look towards the future of the rule of law in Poland and broader, of Poland as a member of the European Union

“As long as PiS will be ruling and the opposition will not collect a majority of votes in Parliament, the perspective of the rule of law in Poland is very bad. There is no hope for changes for the better. Even though some ministers tell local governments to liquidate ‘LGBT+-free zones’, local governments (usually supported by PiS party) keep them in place. The amount of these zones is scary to me. When our education minister says; ‘we had enough of human rights’, there is no prospect of change in the near future.”

 “When it comes to the future of Poland in the EU, it all depends on the European Union’s patience. The Polish government seems to be doing everything to “become the European Union’s naughty and impolite student, that causes trouble all the time”.

The Polish government seems to be doing everything to “become the European Union’s naughty and impolite student, that causes trouble all the time”.

From what I have researched, the election results of the PiS party have been very successful for them without signs of fraud. What do you think could be a cause for the broad support for the Party?
“The reason for PiS success is that this party has an ability to reach people that were excluded (from many different reasons, usually financial ones) and is able to manipulate them emotionally.  Those people don’t care about human rights or state sovereignty, they mostly care about social and financial stability.”

Do you think fines towards Poland will solve the root or the problem or does something else have to change for the tension between the European Union and Poland?
“Financial penalties for Poland unfortunately won’t solve any existing problems. The government is often being praised within Poland for finally ‘giving something to the Polish people’ instead of explaining themselves and their poor economics. The government says that penalties given by the EU are harmful and illegal. They try to make the society believe that the EU is a danger for the Polish people and that we should not sympathize it. That is why I think penalties can have an opposite effect from what they were supposed to achieve, although I personally support them.”

In an odd fashion for a journalistic article this interview with a Polish judge does not contain any names for the sake of the sources safety, names and details are known by author.

About The Author

Pepijn Kouwenberg

Pepijn Kouwenberg mostly writes about International relations and loves topics most other people would define as absolutely boring.