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Ref. DC 041(2016)

Poland should settle its constitutional crisis by respecting judgements of its Constitutional Tribunal: Venice Commission

Venice, 11.03.2016 – An opinion adopted today by the Council of Europe’s constitutional law experts, (the Venice Commission), on recent amendments to the law on Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal concluded that crippling the Tribunal’s effectiveness would undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The opinion insists that both previous and present majorities of the Polish parliament (Sejm) have taken unconstitutional actions.

One part of the conflict – intrinsically linked to the amendments – concerns the appointment of an excessive number of judges to the Tribunal. The Venice Commission therefore calls on the Polish Parliament to find a solution on the basis of the rule of law, respecting the judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal.

A high attendance quorum, the requirement of two thirds majority for adopting judgements and a strict rule making it impossible to deal with urgent cases, especially in their combined effect, would have made the Tribunal ineffective. Therefore, these amendments would have endangered not only the rule of law but also the functioning of the democratic system.

On 9 March 2016, the Tribunal itself held that these amendments were unconstitutional and repealed them. However, the Government announced that it would not publish that judgment. The Venice Commission states that such an unprecedented move would further deepen the constitutional crisis in Poland. The opinion confirms that the Tribunal was entitled to examine these amendments without applying them in this case.

The opinion, requested in December 2015 by Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Witold Waszczykowski, led to a visit last month by a Venice Commission delegation to Poland, so rapporteurs could prepare the opinion.

"The opinion of the Venice Commission gives us a basis to enter into a dialogue with Poland which I will pursue when I visit Warsaw at the beginning of April," said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

Contact : Panos Kakaviatos, Spokesperson/Media officer, Tel. +33 6 98 37 64 04