Poland rediscovers EU values

The ruling party’s reversed itself on expelling judges – and rule of law – thus avoiding a split with the European Union. Poles decided that constitutional principles are part of Europe’s project in peace.

A woman holds flags during an anti-government protest in support of free courts in front of the Supreme Court building in Warsaw, Poland July 27.

The closer Britain gets to leaving the European Union, the more people in other member states seem to remember why the EU exists. The latest example: Poland’s governing party reversed itself last week and agreed to honor a core EU principle of judicial independence. It will now allow two dozen Supreme Court judges to return to work after forcing them into early retirement this year.

The right-wing Law and Justice party had sought to control the courts by simply dismissing judges at will, seeing rule of law as expendable in a democracy. It chafed under EU rules about the need for constitutional constraints on the power of majority. Yet both the EU and many Poles stood up for the democratic values that bind the bloc and have helped keep peace in postwar Europe.

Last year, the EU threatened to strip Poland of its voting rights. The European Court of Justice, meanwhile, deemed the action illegal. And in local elections in October, Polish voters expressed their dissatisfaction with the ruling party. The electoral setback worried leaders that they might lose parliamentary polls due next year. The party also suffered from a corruption scandal.

Within Europe, support for the EU is highest in Poland – more than 80 percent. The country is also the biggest beneficiary of EU funds. Since joining the Union in 2004, however, Poland has also joined a few other Eastern European nations in drifting toward illiberal populism. The crisis over the courts has forced it to revisit reasons for staying in the EU.

The victory for Brussels shows it still commands the moral authority to corral member states into following the EU’s fundamental values. Central to those values is the implied equality before the law and the supremacy of law to democratic rule. Courts serve a vital role as a check on power, mooring rule of law on constitutional principles. Poland, which suffered so much at the hands of countries that violated those principles, should recognize its strength to preserve a society.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Poland rediscovers EU values
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today