ECJ rulings against Poland and Hungary: Wake-up call for Ursula von der Leyen
Today (16.11.21), the European Court of Justice again condemned violations of the rule of law in Poland and Hungary in two rulings. The judges in Luxembourg declared parts of the Polish judicial reform and the Hungarian “Stop Soros” laws incompatible with EU law. Specifically, the Polish case concerned the powers of the Minister of Justice, who is also the Prosecutor General. In these roles, he can assign judges to higher courts and recall them at any time without justification. This poses the risk of political influence on judicial decisions. The Hungarian case was about a package of laws that severely restricts the rights of asylum seekers and criminalises the work of aid organisations.
Both cases are part of a series of massive violations against the rule of law by the governments in Warsaw and Budapest. At the same time the EU Commission under President Ursula von der Leyen remains inactive. The rule of law mechanism has still not been triggered – financial sanctions have so far only been imposed on a cosmetic scale. Moreover, there is a danger that the EU Commission will release the Corona funds for Poland and Hungary in the coming days – despite blatant violations of the rule of law, which have been confirmed by the EU Court of Justice.
My assessment of the ruling against Hungary:
This judgement is a strong signal for Europe’s values. Basic fundamental rights for all people are the foundation of the European Union. It is not acceptable that fundamental rights are suspended by law in Hungary. If the Orban government ignores this ruling and continues to criminalise aid for refugees and their supporters, there must be financial consequences for Budapest. With this ruling, the Orban government is now paying the price for a law that was only introduced to incite public opinion against those seeking protection and those helping them. This smear campaign is not compatible with our values!
My assessment of the ruling against Poland:
The independence of the judiciary is a central pillar of the European system of values. The Polish judicial reforms are not an expression of sovereignty but a political attack on the European rule of law. They must be withdrawn immediately. Otherwise, there cannot be any further payment of EU funds to the government in Warsaw.
Why both rulings are a final wake-up call for Ursula von der Leyen:
Almost every week, the European Court of Justice criticises the dismantling of justice, the rule of law and democracy in Poland and Hungary. These rulings cannot remain without political consequences for the governments in Warsaw and Budapest. The findings of the judges from Luxembourg are a wake-up call to Ursula von der Leyen: Europe’s rule of law is in crisis. In view of the repeated, massive violations of EU law, there must finally be financial sanctions against Poland and Hungary. A disbursement of Corona funds to both countries is an absolute no-go.
The Polish judicial reforms are not an expression of sovereignty but a political attack on the European rule of law.