2nd Dec 2021

No place for Polish 'war' rhetoric, Commission says

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The European Commission says rhetoric about "war" has no place in Europe, following an interview with the Financial Times by Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

"There is no place for rhetoric referring to war among the member states or between the member states and institutions of the European Union," the commission's chief spokesperson, Eric Mamer, said on Monday (25 October).

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The reaction came after the Polish PM, in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, described the commission as being on a war-path against Warsaw.

He evoked images of the EU holding a "gun to our head" and warned the commission against starting "the third world war" by withholding billions in recovery funds.

The long-standing dispute between Warsaw and the EU over the judicial independence of Polish courts came to a head when an October ruling by the country's controversial top court questioned the primacy of EU law.

The stand-off with the commission has delayed the approval of some €36bn in a Covid-19 economic recovery package for Poland.

Morawiecki had used similar combative comments when addressing the European Parliament last week, saying Poland would not bow to EU "blackmail".

The European Parliament, in response, passed a resolution describing the Polish ruling as an "attack on the European community of values and laws as a whole."

The parliament has also been at odds with the European Commission for more action, and wants it to trigger a "rule of law mechanism" to dock billions of other EU funds to Poland for undermining the rule of law.

But it has also accused the Brussels-executive of dragging out the dispute, thus enabling the Polish government led by the nationalist conservative Law and Order party (PiS).

Parliament president David Sassoli has since announced the parliament was preparing legal action against the commission.

"EU member states that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds," he said, in a statement.

"Last year, parliament fought hard for a mechanism to ensure this. However, so far the European commission has been reluctant to use it," he said.

Hungary: Brussels 'like Soviet Union'

But Poland also has friends ready to come to its defence.

Lithuania's president Gitanas Nauseda recently warned against tying the rule of law to EU funding, after a meeting with his Polish counterpart.

And over the weekend, Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán took a more defiant stand, in speech commemorating the 1956 uprising against the Soviet Union.

Launching what is expected to be his campaign ahead of the April 2022 general election, Orbán used combative language accusing the EU of possibly meddling in the upcoming election, and supporting the opposition.

"They [opposition parties] have been competing to see which of them could rule over Hungarians by the grace of Brussels and George Soros as their governor in Hungary [...]," he said of the recent collective opposition primary, where voters chose conservative Péter Márki-Zay as Orbán's challenger.

Orbán has been painting Hungarian-born US billionaire philantroist George Soros as his nemesis for years.

"They openly say that to regain power they will even join forces with the devil. Their aim is to take Hungary from the hands of Mary and put it at the feet of Brussels," Orbán said.

He also spoke of Hungary being on God's side of history in the face of conquered enemies of the past and then drew parallels to the European Union.

"Today the words and actions that Brussels directs at us and the Poles are like those usually reserved for enemies," he claimed.

His justice minister Judit Varga also compared the Soviet Union to the European Union.

"We remember the Hungarian freedom fighters who faced Soviet tanks on the streets in Budapest. We said no to the Soviet empire & we say no to the #imperial ambitions of #Brussels," she tweeted.

Hungary is set to receive over €7bn in grants under the EU's coronavirus response fund, worth around five percent of its GDP.

Von der Leyen vows action against Poland

Ursula von der Leyen said the commission might use either an infringement procedure, an EU probe into the ruling, the new tool of conditionality which could lead to the suspension of EU funds, or the Article 7 sanctions procedure.

Poland vows not to give into EU 'blackmail' at summit

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte suggested Poland's Covid-19 recovery money should not be approved until Warsaw respects the rulings of the European Court of Justice and dispels doubts about the independence of its judiciary.

EU warned against making 'Future EU' conference a one-off

Former European Council president Herman van Rompuy plus local authorities warned EU policymakers against making the Conference on the Future of Europe a one-off exercise, arguing that democracy will continue to be under pressure after 2022.

Ombudsman launches probe into Commission tobacco lobbying

The EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has launched an inquiry to assess if the European Commission complies with transparency obligations over tobacco lobbying – ahead of upcoming revisions of rules targeting tobacco consumption.

Consultancies pocketing EU millions prompts MEP grilling

The European Commission spent €542.4m between 2016 and 2020 for studies written by external private contractors. The findings are part of a larger probe into how large consultancies are increasingly landing lucrative contracts, amid questions on possible conflicts of interest.

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