On 17 and 18 September, four students from the International and European Law programme at the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen are organizing the Our Rule of Law Festival on the rule of law in Poland. During the two-day festival, nine Polish protagonists, including the Polish judge Igor Tuleya, who has been stripped of immunity, will come to Groningen to share their stories.
In February 2021, second-year law students Anna Walczak (Poland), Zuzanna Uba (Poland), Elene Amiranashvili (Georgia) and Tekla Emborg (Denmark) attended an online lecture by Professor by Special Appointment Law and Politics in International Relations John Morijn. After the lecture they were convinced: 'We feel that it is our duty to understand the critical situation in Poland and to do something about it - not only as EU citizens, but especially as students of International and European Law'.
The end result of their joint efforts is the Our Rule of Law festival. A two-day festival about the rule of law in the European Union with special attention for Poland, the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the media. In a short time, Anna, Zuzanna, Elene and Tekla have put together a very appealing and unique programme. In addition to Polish judge Igor Tuleya, who is subject to disciplinary measures and who has been stripped of his immunity, journalist Anna Wojcik, who writes for the independent Polish media OKO.Press and is co-founder of Ruleoflaw.pl, and filmmaker Kacper Lisowski, co-director of the documentary 'A Thousand Robes', will be participating in the festival.
All proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Polish newspaper OKO.press. This independent newspaper has been sued several times in recent years by entrepreneurs, multinationals and politicians.
The students' initiative is supported by: Amnesty International, Helsinki Committee Netherlands, European Law Students' Association, University of Groningen, Meijers Committee, Netherlands Society for International Affairs and Nexus Student Association.
All four students have their own personal motivation to work for the Polish rule of law.
'For the first 6 years of my life I was living in Poland that was not a part of the EU - of course, back then I had no clue what it actually means to be a part of the Union. Growing up, I got the privilege how the EU funds improved my access to education and how it helped Poland to be a better country in the international sphere. With great distress I was watching the radical changes to the judiciary system, which slowly started to affect other areas of our private life - and this is not how I want my country to look like. My first year of studies showed me how important it is to guard basic values such as human rights and democracy and at this point, Poland is in a place far away from them. Simply - this is neither a direction I want to see my country going nor it is a society I want my friends and family to be in and this is why Our Rule of Law is a very important and personal project for me.'
'Growing up in Europe as a non-European, from Georgia, a developing country with ongoing political disarray and conservative beliefs steering the country; resulted in me being mesmerized by the respect for human rights and democracy in the European community. This fascination and my love for politics and law lead me to my LLB studies in Groningen. I always believed that becoming an EU member would resolve all of my countries hardships and redirect the nation to equality, a just justice system and a strengthened democracy. Seeing the rule of law crisis and how this is being handled by the EU worries me as their fundamental qualities are slowly being dismantled.'
'I've gained much understanding this past year of my studies on how many levels people have to face inequality and injustice. And I've realised how important is the European Union in tackling those issues. With the ongoing rule of law crisis we are seeing how the foundational values of the European Community are being undermined. We have organised this festival to save the EU, essentially, as without the respect to these fundaments, justice, equality and rule of law, there is no EU anymore.'
'I came to Groningen to explore what it means to be European - getting my hands dirty in the shaky EU project, in particular the fragile status of rule of law in Poland, is one way for me to do so. Currently a second-year LLB student who have only experienced university life during Covid, I am hungry for building community - with co-students, faculty, and future colleagues from across the EU. The current situation in Poland and Hungary indicates that my likely future professional life in an EU context will include having to stand against serious assaults on the independent practice of the legal field. Such a task is daunting - let us approach it together, the sooner the better.'
Due to Covid restrictions, there is room for a limited number of on-site participants (students).
Online tickets are available at: https://eventix.shop/q9wv6as6.
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Contact: ourruleoflaw.eu gmail.com
This article was published by the Faculty of Law.
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