The European Parliament urged EU governments on Thursday to swiftly determine whether Poland is at risk of a serious breach of EU values and if so, to propose solutions.
By 422 to 147 and 48 abstentions, plenary backed the EU Commission’s proposal to activate Article 7 (1) of the EU Treaty (clear risk of a serious breach of EU values), and to ask Poland to address the risk.
MEPs call on the EU Council of Ministers “to undertake swift action in accordance with the provisions set out” in Article 7(1) and ask that Parliament be fully informed of progress made and action taken at every step of the procedure.
In a plenary resolution passed on 15 November 2017, Parliament said that the situation in Poland represents a “clear risk of a serious breach” of EU values, including the rule of law. MEPs’ are most concerned about the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights.
Article 7 of the EU Treaty, which has so far never been used, provides a mechanism for preventing breaches of EU values and deciding sanctions against the member state concerned, should they occur.
Under Article 7(1), and following an initiative by one third of member states, by the European Parliament or by the EU Commission, the EU Council of Ministers may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of EU values by a member state. The Council decision needs the support of a majority of four fifths of its members and the consent of the European Parliament. In order to prevent an actual breach, it may also address specific recommendations to the country concerned.
Under Article 7(2), an actual breach of EU values can be determined by the European Council (EU heads of state or governments) on a proposal by a third of EU member states or the EU Commission. In this case, the European Council needs to decide by unanimity and the Parliament needs to give its consent.
Article 7(3) provides for possible sanctions, such as the suspension of voting rights in the Council of Ministers.