EU Sanctions More Likely as Poland’s Constitutional Crisis Worsens

By William Stroupe

As Poland’s constitutional crisis deepens, the EU is increasingly likely to slap sanctions on the country for violating EU rule of law commitments. The EU’s Venice Commission, a human rights watchdog, released a highly critical report after a series of controversial actions by the Polish government. Upon election, the conservative-led government expanded the Constitutional Court and adopted new procedural rules which made it more difficult to overrule legislation on constitutionality concerns. The high court rejected the new rules as unconstitutional. However, the government has refused to publish the court’s opinion (and thus render it binding) on the basis that the high court failed to follow the new rules in concluding that they were unconstitutional. If the EU’s rule of law investigation finds violations in Warsaw, the European Council may invoke Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union to suspend rights arising from the Treaty, including Poland’s right of voting representation in the European Council. In the event a specific violation of EU law is found and prosecuted under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, financial sanctions may also be imposed.