Europe's Authoritarian Equilibrium

Invoking Article 7 Against Poland Won't Be Enough

Theresa May and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw, December 2017. Agencja Gazeta / Reuters

On Wednesday, December 20, the European Commission took a historic step to defend the rule of law in Poland. For the first time ever, the Commission triggered Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the EU’s sanctioning mechanism for member governments who violate the union’s fundamental norms, such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. This move comes after two years of failed dialogue, which saw Poland’s government, controlled by the populist Law and Justice (PiS) party, ignore Commission warnings and push through a series of reforms designed to establish total political control over the country’s judiciary.

In the face of such blatant defiance of EU norms, the Commission concluded that there was a “clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland” and asked the national governments in the Council of the EU to vote on whether they agree. This

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