In recent years, a number of worrying developments have been observed in several European Member States, such as Poland, Hungary, Malta and Romania, with regard to the rule of law. Most noteworthy is the situation in Poland, where legislative changes have greatly increased the political influence on judicial appointments, with the result that judicial independence is no longer guaranteed. The ruling party is also responsible for the fact that the Polish Constitutional Court no longer has the power to monitor the government.
The erosion of the rule of law means, on the one hand, that the legal protection of citizens in these specific countries is at risk, and on the other, it puts the entire EU under pressure because trust in equal principles – the basis on which European cooperation rests – is being undermined. This is most visible in the context of cooperation in criminal matters, where the extradition of suspects to Poland is now frequently postponed or even refused because of justified doubts about the independence of Polish courts. Therefore, it is of great importance to put this process on the agenda, to alert politicians and to provide both political and non-political actors with legal tools and arguments to tackle the deterioration of the rule of law.
The gradual dismantling of fundamental achievements that can be seen in some Member States in relation to the rule of law situation is a cause of great concern to the Meijers Committee. The EU’s insufficient reaction to developments that affect the rule of law, for example in Poland or Hungary, also gives reason for concern. One current example is the attacks on the independence of the judiciary in Poland. Although the EU has various means at its disposal to take legal action against this, their use is limited. Where they are used, they appear to be ineffective. The gradual dismantling of fundamental achievements that can be seen in some Member States in relation to the rule of law situation is a cause of great concern to the Meijers Committee.