Minister Bóka: "Transparency and consistency are crucial in handling rule of law issues within the EU"

Here’s a brief summary of Minister Bóka’s letter to Vera Jourová.

Hungary's Minister for European Union Affairs János Bóka addressed a letter to Vera Jourová, vice-president of the European Commission, expressing several critical concerns regarding the Commission's decision to withdraw its Article 7(1) TEU procedure against Poland. This procedure, initiated in December 2017, aimed to address significant issues related to the rule of law in Poland. The Commission's recent assessment concluded that there is no longer a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law, prompting Bóka to seek clarifications and express his reservations.

Minister Bóka noted a contradiction in the Commission's stance. Previously, the Commission demanded concrete legislative measures from Poland to address rule of law issues. Now, the Commission appears to accept political commitments without concrete deadlines, which Bóka argues is insufficient and requires an explanation.

He points out that since the adoption of the Act of June 9, 2022, only one significant piece of legislation has been enacted – an order by the Polish minister of justice in February 2024. Bóka questions the adequacy of this order, especially since it grants significant powers to the minister of justice, potentially undermining judicial independence.

Minister Bóka emphasizes that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has identified deficiencies in Poland's disciplinary regime for judges, which have not been fully addressed. Despite these concerns, the Commission's recent assessment did not adequately consider these ongoing concerns.

The Commission also previously stated that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal lacks independence and legitimacy, raising concerns about its ability to guarantee the constitutionality of Polish laws. Bóka questions why these concerns seem to have been dismissed without substantial justification.

Regarding the National Council for the Judiciary (NJC), Minister Bóka highlights that the Commission previously criticized the premature termination of judges' mandates and the political appointment process. The recent draft legislation aimed at restoring the NJC's independence is viewed positively by the Commission, but Bóka believes a more thorough assessment is necessary.

Furthermore, János Bóka stresses that most of the political commitments made by Poland in its Action Plan have not yet been implemented. The Commission's acceptance of these commitments without significant progress is seen as problematic.

Bóka recalls the Commission's statement that the implementation of the Action Plan would be monitored within the Article 7 procedure. The recent decision to shift this monitoring to the annual Rule of Law Report is seen as a significant change in approach, warranting further explanation.

He urges the Commission to provide detailed explanations for these shifts in its assessment and decision-making processes. The letter suggests that without clear justifications, the Commission's actions could be perceived as politically motivated rather than based on a thorough evaluation of Poland's adherence to the rule of law.

The letter from Minister Bóka underscores the importance of transparency and consistency in the European Commission's handling of rule of law issues within the EU. He calls for a comprehensive response from the Commission to ensure that the decisions made in the context of the Article 7 procedure against Poland are well-founded and maintain the integrity of EU mechanisms designed to protect the rule of law.