Judges Under Pressure: Europe’s Unfinished Transformation

Wednesday, 4 November 2020, 2:00pm - 3:30pm, Online
Two members of the European Union. Two members of NATO. They couldn’t be more different.

Poland and Romania are undergoing transformations that could have a profound effect on the rule of law, particularly on the role of independent judges.

Romania has been consistently criticized by reformers, by human rights activists and by organizations trying to combat the rampant corruption for the weak rule of law and for the constant interference by the political elites in the judiciary.

Since 1989, the country’s transformation has been long, complicated and delayed by vested interests and indeed the old guard. Its history and culture do play a role in delaying the transformation. But the past cannot be used as an excuse to postpone a long overdue institutionalization of the rule of law and make the judiciary genuinely independent.

As for Poland, it was supposed to be a kind of model for other countries making the transformation from communism to democracy. But since 2005, a year after Poland joined the European Union, Law and Justice, a nationalist, conservative party, has been doing everything possible to overturn the gains of the post-1989 period.

Its first stint in power was too short-lived for the party to achieve its goal: adapting the law to implement its agenda. But since 2015, it has chiseled away at the fundamental aspects of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

There are a lot of “whys” with regard to what is happening in Poland and Romania.

Judy Dempsey is a Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor-in-chief of its Strategic Europe blog since 2012 and the author of Das Phänomen Merkel (Körber-Stiftung Edition, 2013). From September 2020 to June 2021 she is a Europe’s Futures Non-Resident Fellow at the IWM.

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