We strongly welcome the decision of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU to take action on the deteriorating situation in Poland and Hungary. For too long these EU member states have been allowed to get away with violations of the rule of law and of human rights. Women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, in particular, have seen their rights eroded. Citizens and media have been silenced, judges and academia have been exposed to attacks.
The Portuguese presidency is now set to move forward with proceedings against Poland and Hungary for violations of European values, by holding hearings under Article 7(1) TEU. In the case of Poland, European citizens want the European Union to seriously treat the vast abuses of the rule of law and fundamental rights by addressing: the erosion of judicial independence; the compromised Constitutional Tribunal, which is undermining human rights including women’s rights; violation of the right to peaceful protest and targeting of women’s rights organizations.
The abuses perpetrated by the ruling coalition in Poland can no longer be condoned by the EU.
“Polish citizens’ lives have been at stake for too long. From government-backed police brutality and smearing in right-wing media targeting peaceful protesters, to death threats against women’s rights defenders, a near-ban on abortion care and threats to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention that protects women from violence, all has led to an atmosphere of terror.” said Irene Donadio, Senior lead of strategy and partnership at the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN).
The Hungarian government declared a state of emergency – under the pretext of Covid -, seizing unlimited power to rule by decree without parliamentary and judicial review. The government interfered with independent media and academia, launched an assault on members of the LGBT community, and undermined women’s rights.
“Things have been escalating for some time now, and it all stems from the collapse of the rule of law in both countries” added Irene Donadio.
These hearings are a much-needed step, but only the beginning. We call on the Council of the EU to make full use of Article 7 to hold the two governments accountable, including to issue concrete recommendations on the rule of law which the Polish and Hungarian governments should urgently implement, and to move swiftly towards determining that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in both countries. The situation has in fact deteriorated far beyond the point of a mere “risk” of a breach to the rule of law.
Beyond Article 7, the EU must urgently use the new mechanism that links EU funding to respect for the EU's core democratic values. As the EU is preparing an historic financial package meant for post-COVID recovery, stronger steps need to be taken to prevent the political distribution of EU money that would cement authoritarian power in Poland and Hungary.
Poland and Hungary have been able to get away with too much for too long, trampling on EU values whilst receiving EU support. Enough is enough. The EU must stand up for itself, and these hearings are a strong signal in this direction.
Overview of the situation in Poland.
Press contact: Irene Donadio: +32 (0) 491 719 390