Summary: Human rights organisations ask European Commission to suspend Poland’s EU voting rights

International human rights organisations, including SRT grantees the Helsinki Foundation for Human RightsFIDH and Reporters Without Borders, have called on the European Commission to take decisive measures in response to Poland’s “disregard” for the rule of law. Since taking office in 2015, Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Party has introduced policies aimed at curbing civil liberties and reducing the independence of the media, civil
service and judiciary.

The human rights organisations, along with more than 20 Polish NGOs, have signed an open letter asking the European Commission to launch the third stage of the rule of law procedure, which would mean the triggering of measures under Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU).

Article 7 was established 16 years ago in an attempt to hold member states to account for human rights violations, but to date has not been used. If triggered it would impose sanctions on the affected country and suspend its EU voting rights. A decision to trigger Article 7 must be approved by four
fifths of EU Member States.

The open letter’s signatories write that “a recommendation from the Commission to activate Article 7 TEU is at this stage is the only way to continue to hold Poland to account for its failure to respect its obligations under the Treaties”. The NGOs also emphasise that it “would send a strong signal to other Member States” that no one can undermine the founding
values of the European Union without a strong response from the EU.”

The signing organisations also note that recommending resort to the Article 7 procedure will send “a strong signal to civil society in Poland that the Commission stands by its side in its fight for a society in which democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the other values protected under Article 2 TEU are upheld”.

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