Democracy in Europe: What about Poland?

120 minuten

Video On Demand: De Balie TV + De Balie Vimeo. In 2015 the political party Law and Justice won the Polish elections and quickly took a number of measures to increase their power by limiting the rights and freedoms of the Constitutional Court and the media. How is it possible that the rule of law in Poland was undermined so quickly? What does this mean for Eastern Europe and the European Union as a whole? Can we understand through history the cause of this collapse?

The sudden deterioration of the rule of law in Poland, long regarded as one of the most successful examples of democratic transformation after the fall of the Berlin wall, has taken many by surprise. What are the causes of the sudden deterioration of the rule of law in Poland? Given these causes, what, if anything, can the EU and other outside organizations do to help counter democratic backsliding and encourage a restoration of the rule of law of in Poland?

The measures that Law and Justice took were very controversial and hotly debated in Poland. An unprecedented number of protesters took to the street, but they were not able to reverse the process of democratic backsliding. On the contrary, Peace and Justice recently issued a number of legislative proposals which will further structurally undermine judicial independence in Poland. In response, the European Commission has finally issued a formal warning by the EU. Moderator: Lousewies van der Laan

Key notes by Wojciech Sadurski, Kees Sterk and Adam Bodnar. Followed by a discussion with the panel consisting of: Marta Bucholc, Bojan Bugaric, Adam Czarnota, Gabor Halmai, Radoslaw Markowski. 


Wojciech Sadurski is Challis Professor in Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney. He also holds the position of Professor at the Centre for Europe in the University of Warsaw. He was Professor of Legal Theory and Philosophy of Law at the European University Institute in Florence, and served as head of department of Law at the EUI in 2003-2006. He regularly writes op-eds in the Polish media on the current rule of law crisis. 
Kees Sterk is member of the executive board of the Dutch Council for the Judiciary. Before joining the Council for the Judiciary he was a judge in the district court of Breda (1994-2000), the appellate court of Den Bosch (2000-2008) and the Supreme Court (2008-2013). He was an academic at Tilburg University before he started his career in the judiciary. Sterk recently published various critical essays on the rule of law crisis in Poland in the Nederlands Juristenblad.

Adam Bodnar is the Polish Ombudsman. Before that he was the vice-president of the Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and also a faculty member at the University of Warsaw, Faculty of Law. He served for many years as the strategic litigation director of HRFH and has several major victories before the Polish Constitutional Tribunal and the European Court of Human. His candidacy as Ombudsman was supported by 65 non-governmental organizations dealing with human rights. Marta Bucholc studied Sociology, Philosophy and Law in Warsaw. She has received numerous awards and stipends for her research, including the Florian Znaniecki Awards of the Polish Sociological Association, the START Fellowship at the Foundation for Polish Science as well as the Bronisław Geremek Fellowship from the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. Since 2014, she is member of the editorial advisory board of the Law and Society Review.

Adam Czarnota is Professor of law at the University of New South Wales and the University of Wroclaw. He published extensively on the rule of law and transitional justice in Central and Eastern Europe. He was the director of the International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Oñati, Spain.

Radoslaw Markowski is Head of the Comparative Politics Department at the Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences and Chair of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities. A political scientist who specializes in comparative politics and electoral studies, he has been Director of the Polish National Election Study since 1995 and a member of the Planning Committee of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems since 1997. Markowski has been a visiting professor at Duke, Wisconsin-Madison, Rutgers and the Central European University. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles, including Post-Communist Party Systems: Competition, Representation and Inter-party Cooperation (Cambridge University Press, 1999), and is on the editorial boards of the European Journal of Political Research, European Union Politics, Perspectives on European Politics and Society and the Journal of Political Science Education
About the triptych
In Hungary, Poland and Turkey democratically chosen politicians are undermining open and democratic society, the rule of law and it's institutional fabric. For EU-members Hungary and Poland, and also for Turkey, these seem to be remarkable developments. In recent years we however have seen a democratic backslide in these countries. What exactly is happening there and what can we learn from it? In three informative gatherings we will explore these questions and try to answer them. In 2015 won de politieke partij ‘Law and Justice’ de Poolse verkiezingen en nam direct een aantal maatregelen om hun macht te vergroten, onder meer door het verkleinen van de rechten en vrijheid van het Hooggerechtshof en de media. Hoe is het mogelijk dat het rechtssysteem in Polen zo snel ondermijnd kon worden? Wat betekent dit voor Oost-Europa en voor de Europese Unie als geheel? Kunnen we deze terugslag beter begrijpen door te kijken naar de geschiedenis?

De plotselinge afbrokkeling van de rechtsstaat in Polen, een land dat lang gezien werd als een van de meest succesvolle voorbeelden van democratische transformatie na de val van de Berlijnse Muur, heeft velen verrast. Wat zijn de oorzaken van deze onverwachte ontwrichting van de rechtsstaat? En wat kunnen de EU en andere organisaties van buiten doen om de ontwrichting te stoppen en het herstel van de democratie aan te moedigen?

De maatregelen zijn erg controversieel en veel bediscussieerd in Polen. Een onverwacht grote groep demonstranten ging de straat op, maar waren niet in staat om het proces van een afbrokkelende democratie ongedaan te maken. In tegendeel zelfs, Law and Justice heeft recentelijk nog een aantal wetsvoorstellen gedaan die de juridische onafhankelijkheid in Polen structureel ondermijnen. De Europese Commissie is in reactie op deze maatregelen uiteindelijk overgegaan op een officiële waarschuwing.  Over het drieluik
In Hongarije, Polen en Turkije maken democratisch gekozen politici wetten die de democratische rechtstaat ondermijnen. Voor EU-lidstaten Hongarije en Polen, maar ook voor Turkije, lijken dit opmerkelijke ontwikkelingen. Wat gebeurt er precies in deze landen en wat kunnen we er van leren? In drie informatieve bijeenkomsten onderzoeken we samen met experts deze vragen.
Voertaal: Engels

Dit is een samenwerking tussen Tilburg University School of Law, De Balie en ACCESS EUROPE (Universiteit van Amsterdam/Vrije Universiteit).