Article seven is a charge against a country for having non-European values.
Specifically, the charge against Poland relates to its judiciary, but the EU also took Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over migrant issues.
Eurointelligence Synopsis of Poland
Yesterday the European Commission triggered an Article 7 procedure under the Lisbon treaty, which could, in theory, lead to the imposition of sanctions against a member state. This procedure's final vote by the European Council will require unanimity, and Hungary has already said it would veto any attempt to impose sanctions on Poland. For that reason alone, the procedure is likely to fail. The Commission is going ahead because the symbolic act of starting the procedure matters more than the eventual outcome.
In the next step of the process, the Council has to pass a vote by a majority of four-fifths to determine that there is a serious risk of a member state failing to comply with the democratic values of the EU. The European Parliament will first have to give its consent. The procedure culminates with a vote at the European Council, where unanimity would apply. A veto by Hungary ends the process. The question is whether Hungary will actually come to the aid of Poland, and risk political isolation in the EU, or whether they will stick to their pre-announced position.
FAZ notes this morning that the case against Poland is similar to a case against Romania, where the government is seeking judicial reforms to facilitate corruption by government officials.
There are no signs of the Polish government backing down. Shortly after the announcement by the Commission, President Andrzej Duda signed off on two of the controversial judicial laws. The reaction of Poland's new prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, was mild in tone but hard in substance. He said the reform of the judiciary was necessary.
Where will this lead? We noted an interview in Die Zeit with the Polish political scientist Renata Mienkowska, who said Poland may leave the EU after 2020 if it ceases to be a net recipient of EU funds. If the governing party PiS wins the next parliamentary elections, due in late 2019, it may not have much of an interest in staying in the EU beyond the end of the current budget period in 2020. She called an EU-exit by Poland "absolutely possible" despite the fact that a large percentage of Poles appear to support EU membership. The reason is that the support for the EU is soft, and could easily turn into opposition.
The notion of European values is a joke.
Nonetheless, no matter what one thinks of Poland's judicial reforms, as long as any other country supports Poland, it is difficult for the EU to do much.
In this case, Hungary has stated it would side with Poland.
Romania may do the same given the EU has concerns regarding Romania's judicial reforms.
Poland and Hungary refuse to take any migrants. The Czech Republic and Slovakia refuse to take their alleged "fair share", yet another violation of "European values".
The EU did not bring Article 7 charges against that block of countries as it was guaranteed to go nowhere. Unanimity would fail by at least four.
Instead, the EU took the case to the ECJ which ruled in favor of the EU in September.
“All members of the EU must respect the ruling,” Manfred Weber, the head of the of the largest faction in the European Parliament, told a news conference. “The legal fight is over.”
Legal Fight Not Over
The legal fight is not over, because the countries will not abide by the ruling.
On February 24, 2017, the Danish Supreme Court ruled the Principle of EU Law Does Not Prevail Over National Law.
On October 13, Denmark refused to lift EU border controls in blow to EU free movement
By numerous measures, the legal fight is not over.
Merkel stated that it was "unacceptable for EU states to disregard the court."
But until the EU can find a way to penalize the offending countries, the EU will remain a toothless tiger.
Sanctions require unanimous approval. So do treaties. And there is no provision to kick a country out of the EU.
The body is large and unwieldy.
If the EU does find a way to strip Poland of subsidies, it may leave the EU.
Dear EU: Talk is cheap. What are you going to do about any of this?
Mike "Mish" Shedlock