Signs come as far-right Law and Justice party comes under increasing pressure
The European court of justice has ruled against Poland in the first ruling on the European Union’s attempt to rein in the country’s nationalist ruling party, deepening divisions in Europe over a number of its policies.
The Luxembourg-based court ruled that an EU-imposed media blackout in a tense standoff over the relocation of a group of judges in Poland in February was flawed and the restrictions could be justified.
The ruling could add pressure on the far-right Law and Justice party (PiS) to loosen the blockade on media freedoms, given the uproar in Warsaw that has accompanied more conservative moves to curb the rights of judges, civil society and the media.
“When a non-EU party states that the fundamental rights of a Union member state cannot be guaranteed, there is a necessary procedure to address this issue,” the court said.
The court also ruled that Poland’s attempt to delay a decision on the relocation of judges in its own courts also violated EU laws and had “no justification”.
The ruling comes on the heels of protests against anti-government judges and journalists in a city near Warsaw.
Poland’s deputy justice minister said on Saturday the government would look at ways to limit the rule of law or have Poland leave the EU if the court struck down the media blackout.
Sławomir Sierakowski said the ruling was aimed at embarrassing Poland, and that “this will surely have an impact” on the government’s agenda of defending national sovereignty.
Earlier this year Poland introduced a blanket media blackout on government meetings and public events, citing national security concerns over a proposal to relocate seven of the EU’s highest court judges to Poland.
The seven judges face legal challenges from Poland’s ruling party after their relocation plans were blocked by a rightwing minority in the Polish parliament.
Poland says the plan will destabilise the court system in Poland, and its justice minister argued it needed to be protected at all costs.
The European Union tried to provide a distraction from the heated atmosphere and asked EU member states to impose a media blackout on Polish ministers and news media.
On 21 February, the call received overwhelming support in a voting procedure in the European parliament, although only two EU member states voted in favour of the restriction: Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Eight other countries voted against it, including the Netherlands, Greece, Slovakia, Spain, Finland, Sweden and Austria.
The ban remains in place at the moment, and European leaders are expected to discuss it at a summit in November.