Polands Constitutional Court Chief Justice Janek Skarzynski/Getty Images

Why Polish Judicial Independence Matters

In addition to violating fundamental European political values, the Polish government's attacks on judicial independence also undermine the functioning of the single market. If the EU does not respond forcefully, further economic integration could suffer a fatal blow.

BUDAPEST – After some delay, Poland’s government, controlled by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, has finally responded to concerns raised by the European Commission about its legislative attack on judicial independence. But, according to Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s first vice president, Poland is still refusing to cooperate, and has not announced “any concrete measures to address the issues raised.”

It remains to be seen if the European Union will use the political and economic tools at its disposal to sanction the Polish government. We believe it should – resolutely and swiftly. The PiS’s efforts to bring Poland’s courts under political control violate the EU’s fundamental democratic values and threaten its governance of the single market. At this point, continued inaction on the EU’s part could threaten the project of economic integration altogether.

Market integration among economies at different levels of development relies primarily on regulatory standardization. The single market works because an entrepreneur in the Netherlands and an entrepreneur in Poland can both expect to be governed by the same rules, regardless of whether they are selling goods or investing in Italy, Hungary, France, or Bulgaria. These agreed rules are enforced not just by EU courts and bureaucracies, but also by national courts in the member states.

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