Written by Gianna Iacino* and originally published by ECPMF.EU

The rule of law is the legal principle which states that the law should govern a nation instead of individual government officials with their arbitrary decisions. The rule of law is a prerequisite for the protection of all fundamental values of the European Union, as they are listed in art. 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

If a Member State breaks an EU law, the TEU provides rules for an infringement procedure against that Member State. This infringement procedure is regulated in art. 7 TEU and it can lead to the suspension of voting rights in case of a “serious and persistent breach” of EU values.

On 11 March 2014, the Commission adopted a new framework for addressing systemic threats to the rule of law in any Member State. The new framework established a new tool for the Commission to enter into a dialogue with the Member State concerned with preventing further threats to the rule of law and with avoiding, if possible, the necessity for an official infringement procedure according to art. 7 TEU.

The new framework introduced a three-stage process for the dialogue with the Member State concerned. The first step is to assess whether there are systemic threats to the rule of law in the Member State concerned by collecting and examining all relevant information. If the Commission determines such systemic threats to the rule of law, it will – in a second step – recommend that the Member State solves the identified problems. In a third and last step the Commission will monitor the follow up of the Member State to the recommendation.

Due to the changes to the Polish Media Law and the rules regarding the Polish Constitutional Court, the Commission has initiated the three-stage process against Poland. At this moment, the Commission is gathering all relevant information regarding a possible systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland.

*Gianna Iacino is a research officer at the EMR European Media Law Institute in Saarbrücken, one of the ECPMF’s Consortium Partners.

At a glance: How the EU enforces the Rule of Law (three-stage process)

1. Assessment:

Do the changes affect the system that upholds the Rule of Law?

2. Recommendation:

Poland may need to make changes to bring its system in line with EU values.

3. Monitoring:

The EU will continue to watch for any new changes that may lead to threats.

Tags: European policies and legislation Media Law Poland EU Member States
Short title: Defending media freedom in Poland

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Publication Date: 14/01/2016