Poland’s challenge to the European rule of law

Why the recent CC ruling is just the tip of the iceberg

Amidst the incessant flow of news and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and the US presidential elections, that are definitely set up to be among the most defining events of the decade, in the past few weeks yet another situation of socio-political turmoil has surged to the forefront of European and international political attention: Poland.

The country is currently days into movements of civil unrest, with protests and mass demonstrations flooding the streets of the main cities and gaining the attention of news outlets all over the world.

And as for every protest that suddenly gains such a large scale this fast, the overarching cause can never be pinpointed to a single event: rather, Poland has had an array of intertwined socio-political tensions boiling under the surface for too long, that only needed a triggering event to erupt.

In this case, the latter was the Polish Constitutional Court’s ruling issued on October 22nd that officially outlawed abortion, even in case of severe foetal defects or life-threatening conditions. Such a decision came as a shock to most of the liberal Western countries; however, a closer analysis of the events of the past years can demonstrate how Poland’s ruling party has longtime been reinforcing its iron grip on the Constitutional Court and on the Polish judicial system as a whole, subduedly using it as its longa manus to advance and protect its political interests at large (and religious ones too, seen its firmly Catholic matrix). The new abortion ban is of course a prime example of that, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.