[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) [official website] announced [press release] Wednesday that it has begun the first assessment of the Rule of Law [materials] in Poland, a member state, concerning the EU policy of Media Freedom and Pluralism materials] as well as changes in the nation's Constitutional Tribunal. The Rule of Law encompasses the core principles protected by the EU. The investigation comes after newly enacted legislation [JURIST report] creating a national media council in Poland, which has the power to appoint leaders of public media stations. European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans [official profile] began debates to assess the Polish policies under Rule of Law Framework and sent a letter to the Polish government to initiate communication about meeting the framework.
In December Poland enacted [JURIST report] a law requiring its highest court to have 13 judges present, as well as a two-thirds majority vote to make a ruling. The Law and Justice (PIS) [website, in Polish] is allegedly the driving force behind these new laws. The PIS party, a conservative party elected in October, holds an overwhelming majority [BBC report] of positions in the Polish government including the lead in both parliamentary houses and the presidency. Earlier last month the leader of the European Parliament [official website] compared PIS' rise to power in Poland to a coup [BBC report], leading to the government to call for an apology. Prior to this political upheaval, Poland faced criticism for hosting a CIA-operated secret prison [JURIST report], where terrorism suspects were held and tortured between 2002 and 2005. An investigation [JURIST report] into the prison has been ongoing in Poland since 2008.