The European Union is facing one of the worst political crises that is shaking the pillars on which it is based. Authoritarianism is the new virus that is spreading throughout some Member states. By now, Hungary and Poland are expression of denied rights, indeed there is: no independent media, no right to abortion, no rights for LGBT+ communities, no gender equality, no respect for minorities. Hungary, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote, "is no longer a democracy " and Poland is exposing itself to a high risk of resembling it.
The governing party - Law and Justice- has polarised the public media, turning it into a means of propaganda. Indeed, ministers have the power to hire and fire the directors and, through the firm Orlen, 20 local newspapers, 120 weekly magazines and hundreds of information portals have become property of the public sector. Illustrating to citizens the abuses of the administration or political failures will no longer be possible in the public media and sooner or later in independent ones too. In fact, the government is blocking financial support for independent media that do not spread the government's view. This situation jeopardises the freedom of the press and journalists’ own work. In proof of this, Reporter without Borders ranks Poland 64th for freedom of press and before this government it was 18th.
After the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court (by now become a tool in the hands of the governing party) on restrictions on the right to abortion, the squares of Polish cities were swarmed up with people protesting peacefully against that decision. Many associations were born by gathering even more people. Unfortunately, prominent activists have been threatened with death by dozens of hateful emails from ultra-Catholic groups. Although these kinds of facts have been reported to the police, no measures have been taken to protect the victims.
Polish judiciary has been hindered to operate properly after a reform, indeed judges who file an appeal to the European Court of Justice undergo corrective sanctions and even a criminal trial. The EU Commission indicated interim measures that suspended these provisions and the effects of the already taken decisions of Polish Disciplinary Chamber of the Court.
In addition, several municipalities are implementing systematic discrimination against LGBT+ communities by spreading, through television and public debates, the concept that homosexuality is deeply related to paedophilia to the point that local authorities are planning to become “LGBT+ free” (but the procedures of “succeeding” in this project are unclear).
This being the state of affairs, European Institutions have to react!
Although several actions have been adopted to restore faithful and independent members to the Polish Supreme Court, further ones shall be taken, considering that things have not improved.
Just recalling the principles established by Art. 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU): “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”. And art. 49 TEU whereby any country complying with this set of values could apply to become a member of the EU. Unfortunately, the guarantee of these values is sensitive and could deeply shift.
That is the case of Poland and for this reason, EU Council members should apply art. 7 TEU that suspends certain rights deriving from the EU membership so as to send a clear message: in the EU there is no place for undemocratic behaviours.
Cover picture from Pixabay