A quote from the 1967 Polish film classic “Sami swoi” reads, at least roughly translated: “A court is a court, but we need justice.” It is a reminder to the EU Commission of what is actually at stake: not a single one court, but about the rule of law.
Ursula von der Leyen is traveling to Warsaw on Thursday. Members of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party are already looking forward to the Commission President announcing that the billions intended for Poland from the Corona recovery fund will be released. So far, they have been held back because of the dismantling of the judiciary in the country.
Only a few days ago, however, the lower house of parliament passed a law according to which the disciplinary chamber at the Supreme Court could be dissolved – and the first foreign observers are saying that Poland is making “concessions”.
Nothing could be more myopic. The Chamber is a central point of contention between the Polish government and the Commission. But anyone following the restructuring of the rule of law in Poland knows that the PiS was able to present Brussels for six years because it always took one step back and three forwards. This is also the case now.
Because the chamber is only part of the PiS agenda policy. Aside from being able to continue working under a new name, there is also a complete system of judicial discipline in place. The Constitutional Court has declared parts of the EU treaties void and much more. The new law does not change any of this.
But the Commission seems to want to release the billions. Because Poland has risen to become the most important European supporter of Ukraine, has taken in 3.5 million refugees, and is sending weapons and aid. It is understandable that Poland should get the money in this situation.
But it would be foolish to justify this by saying that Parliament is signaling a willingness to compromise with its vote. Because the problems surrounding Poland’s rule of law are not going away because of Warsaw’s impressive commitment to Ukraine.