Protecting EU Values The University of Warsaw and the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg cooperate to address the current rule of law crisis in the European Union

From 14-15 September 2017, the Chair of European Law at the University of Warsaw Faculty of Law and the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, hosted a conference on the current rule of law crisis in Poland. Under the title “Protecting European Union Values: Breaches of Article 2 TEU and their Consequences”, over 200 participants listened to 30 presentations in 7 panels. The list of speakers and panelists included both academics, such as Joseph Weiler and Jochen Frowein to name but senior participants, and also numerous practitioners, such as Maciej Szpunar, Advocate General at the CJEU, the Polish Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, Jörg Polakiewicz, Director of the Directorate of Legal Advice and Public International Law at the Council of Europe, or Emmanuel Crabit, Head of Unit in the European Commission’s DG JUST. In the audience, numerous correspondents of the Polish press, Member State embassies and institutions, such as the Dutch ombudsman, but also NGOs, were present.

The speakers focused on all aspects of the current crisis, starting with a legal analysis of the domestic situation in Poland, and ranging from concrete interpretations of Art. 2 and 7 TEU to examining possible other sanctions of Member States in defiance of Art. 2 TEU, such as re-assessing the infringement action, or financial sanctions. Specific attention was paid to the rendering Article 2 TEU justiciable or arguing for a broader interpretation of Art. 51 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which would allow the CJEU to play a more active role. Further speakers referred to possible measures under Public International Law or used the background of the situation in Poland for comparisons with other specific cases in Member States, such as Hungary, Spain, or Greece.

Joseph Weiler and Jochen Frowein both emphasized the personal importance the developments in Poland had for them. Professor Weiler, while voicing concern over the EU’s own democratic and rule of law deficits, referred to his strong family-roots in the country and Professor Frowein, a member of the 1970 German delegation negotiating the Treaty of Warsaw, both reminded the audience of the paramount importance of Poland’s active and productive role in Europe. Professor Frowein further emphasised the need for strong and excellent Polish-German relations in light of recent reparation demands.

While it was not the aim of the Conference to arrive at a general conclusion, many speakers and members of the audience issued doubts about the feasibility of the Art. 7 TEU procedure, at the same time expressing strong concerns about the situation in Poland. Some commentators were also critical, either urging the European Commission to be more considerate of its actions or criticizing its strategy. In general, the overwhelming majority in the room sided with the European Commission’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the EU and seek an active dialogue with Poland.

For better or worse, no position was taken on behalf of the Polish government (although invited to participate in the Conference). In contrast, Dr. Bodnar’s precisely observed and clear analysis as well as a short address by Prof. Mirosław Wyrzykowski, former judge at the Polish Constitutional Court, demonstrated the severe concerns of many Polish jurists in the room.

Academia and practitioners alike can now look forward to a journal issue or conference volume, assembling many of the most noteworthy experts in the field, which will go into print probably in 2018.

The undersigned, organisers of the conference, have set up a Facebook page on which documentation is also available and future announcements will be made, in particular regarding the conference volume:

Prof. Armin von Bogdandy
Dr Piotr Bogdanowicz
Dr Maciej Taborowski
Matthias Schmidt



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