Paolo Soro

Rule of Law in Poland; Progress on Migration and Security Union

Commission acts to preserve the Rule of Law in Poland; reports on progress on relocation and resettlement and shows solidarity with Italy on migration.

The European Commission acted today to protect the rule of law in Poland. The Commission substantiated its grave concerns on the planned reform of the judiciary in Poland in a Rule of Law Recommendation addressed to the Polish authorities. In the Commission's assessment, this reform amplifies the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland already identified in the rule of law procedure started by the Commission in January 2016. The Commission requested the Polish authorities to address these problems within one month and asked the Polish authorities notably not to take any measure to dismiss or force the retirement of Supreme Court judges. If such a measure is taken, the Commission stands ready to immediately trigger the Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union procedure – a formal warning by the EU that can be issued by four fifths of the Member States in the Council of Ministers. The Commission also decided to launch an infringement proceeding against Poland for breaches of EU law. The College will immediately send a Letter of Formal Notice once the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation is published. At the same time, the Commission recalled its offer to pursue a constructive dialogue with the Polish Government.

The College of Commissioners discussed progress on relocation and resettlement and showed solidarity with Italy in managing migration along the Central Mediterranean Route.

In a letter to Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni, President Juncker, First Vice-President Timmermans and EU Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos, stressed the important role played by Italy in managing migration in the Central Mediterranean and outlined a series of measures the Commission is ready to take swiftly, if the Italian government considers it useful in the coming weeks. These include measures to accelerate relocation, mobilising additional funding and deploying EU agency personnel. The Commission also set up a dedicated contact team for Italy to ensure rapid operational responses.

The Commission has also adopted its 14th progress report on relocation of asylum seekers within the EU and resettlement of refugees from outside the EU. With relocations reaching record levels in June (with over 2,000 relocated from Greece and almost 1,000 from Italy) and almost all Member States pledging and transferring regularly, relocating all those eligible remains feasible before September.

More concretely, the pace of relocation has continued to increase over recent months, with transfers reaching more than 1,000 every month since November 2016 and June 2017 representing a new record monthly high with over 3,000 transfers. As of 24 July, the total number of relocations stands at 24,676 (16,803 from Greece; 7,873 from Italy). However, more efforts are needed to accelerate transfers from Italy, especially in view of the current situation in the Central Mediterranean.

Overall progress on resettlement continues to be positive with around three quarters (17,179) of the 22,504 resettlements agreed in July 2015 already carried out. The Commission has launched a new pledging exercise to resettle the most vulnerable people from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Ethiopia and Sudan while continuing resettlements from Turkey.

In parallel, the European Commission has today sent reasoned opinions (second stage of the infringement procedure) to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland for non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation. Despite repeated calls for action and the launch of infringement procedures by the Commission last month, these three countries remain in breach of their legal obligations and have shown disregard for their commitments to Greece, Italy and other Member States.

The College adopted the 9th Security Union progress report which highlights the recent steps taken to prevent terrorist financing through trafficking in cultural goods and improve the interoperability of EU information systems. Based on a comprehensive assessment of EU security policy since 2001, the report also highlights the remaining gaps and challenges to be addressed.

The main findings of the report are that steady progress has been made in recent months, notably with new rules on trafficking in cultural goods proposed in July 2017, and agreement has been reached on a new Entry/Exit system to register entry and exit data of non-EU nationals crossing the EU's external borders. Work on countering radicalisation on the internet has also been stepped up with an action plan of new measures set out to detect and remove illegal terrorist content online.

The Commission reacted to the Opinion of the European Court of Justice which concerns the compatibility of the envisaged EU-Canada Agreement on the transfer and processing of passenger name record data (PNR Agreement) with the Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

On the basis of a presentation by President Juncker and Vice-President Katainen, the College of Commissioners discussed the state of play of the US draft Bill on Russia sanctions ("Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act 2017"). Commissioners expressed their concerns notably because of the draft Bill's possible impact on EU energy independence. The Bill as endorsed by the US House of Representatives demonstrates that a number of these concerns are being taken into account. It nevertheless foresees the imposition of sanctions on any company (including European) which contributes to the development, maintenance, modernisation or repair of energy export pipelines by the Russian Federation. Depending on its implementation, this could affect infrastructure transporting energy resources to Europe, for instance the maintenance and upgrade of pipelines in Russia that feed the Ukraine gas transit system. It could also have an impact on projects crucial to the EU's diversification objectives such as the Baltic Liquefied Natural Gas project. While the College underlined the importance of the sanctions regime against Russia and its strict implementation, it expressed concerns about the possible negative political consequences of the draft Bill. As reiterated at the G7 in May, new sanctions should always be coordinated between allies.

Source: EU Commission News

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