Where the law ends. The collapse of the rule of law in Poland – and what to do

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Head of the Warsaw office and senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a…

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The authors, from Batory Foundation Idea Forum and ESI, argue that the Polish case is a test whether it is possible to create a Soviet-style justice system, where the control of courts, prosecutors and judges lies with the executive and a single party, in an EU member state.



  • Multiple European institutions expressed concerns risks to the rule of law in Poland following series of amendments to Constitutional Tribunal and Supreme Court regulations, effectively an legislative capture of the judiciary;
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  • No one should underestimate the seriousness of the current crisis over the rule of law in Poland or its implications for the EU as a whole. No member state of the EU has ever gone as far in subjugating its courts to executive control as the current Polish government has done
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  • The Polish government has pursued a shrewd and consistent strategy in the face of criticism by European institutions: to stall, to obfuscate and to avoid any meaningful concession
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  • What is required is for the CJEU and member states to act in the mutual expectation that they are committed to uphold the rule of law and will use all tools at their disposal: infringement procedures on each legislation under question, state level support and executive actions by the Commission;
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  • What is at stake in Poland today is the future of the EU as a project based on core principles such as the rule of law, separation of powers and human rights. There is no more time to lose to protect it.
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This analysis was written in cooperation between the ideaForum of the Stefan Batory Foundation and European Stability Initiative.
Full document can be found here: Where the law ends. The collapse of the rule of law in Poland – and what to do, published May 29, 2018
Main authors:
Piotr Buras – head of the Warsaw Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations
Gerald Knaus – chairman of the European Stability Initiative based in Berlin



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May 29, 2018

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