Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Poland rebukes ‘left-wing’ EU commission

  • Ziobro: 'I deplore your … unjustified accusations and unfair conclusions' (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Poland has accused the Dutch EU commissioner, Frans Timmermans, of "left-wing" bias and "astonishing" ignorance in trying to “exert pressure” on constitutional reform.

If Timmermans had expected a conciliatory reply, on technical issues, after he asked the Polish justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, in December to explain the reforms, then he would have been surprised on Monday evening (11 January).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Timmermans: Had asked Poland to halt constitutional law, pending clarification (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Ziobro said in his letter that he’s “astonished” by Timmermans’ “lack of knowledge about the factual developments”.

“I deplore your … unjustified accusations and unfair conclusions,” he said.

“May I ask you to exercise more restraint in instructing and cautioning the parliament and government of a sovereign and democratic state in the future, despite the ideological differences that may exist between us, with you being of a left-wing persuasion,” he added, referring to Timmermans’ past in the centre-left Labour Party.

The exchange of letters comes after the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which won the Polish elections in October, hurried through changes to the country’s constitutional tribunal.

It removed five judges nominated during the former, Civic Platform (PO) party-led government and installed its own people.

It also raised the threshold and quorum for the tribunal to issue verdicts, making it harder to vet future legislation.

Ziobro said the changes are needed because the PO, in its term in office, had “tried to monopolise the court” with its loyalists.

He said the PO “hurriedly” appointed five new judges just before the October elections, depriving the new parliament of the chance to do so.

“These disgraceful activities … regrettably failed to attract your attention at that time,” he told Timmermans.

He said PiS’ actions are designed to “reinstate pluralism” in the constiutional tribunal.

He added that the head of the top court, Andrzej Rzeplinski, who is meant to be neutral, openly “declares himself to be a supporter of the Civic Platform” and “acts as a politician” due to his “political ambitions”.

Ziobro’s letter arrived shortly before the commission holds a debate on Poland on Wednesday.

A commission spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said on Tuesday that Timmermans is “analysing” what Ziobro said, as well as a previous Polish letter on overhaul of state media.

Some commissioners, such as Germany’s Guenther Oettinger, have said Poland should be placed under a supervisory mechanism, which could lead to EU sanctions.

But Schinas hit a softer note, saying Poland has, "exactly as requested by vice-president Timmermans", entered into a dialogue with the Venice Commission, a constitutional advisory body in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

For its part, Rzeplisnki’s tribunal will, on Tuesday, issue its own verdict on the legality of the PiS reforms.

It will do so under its old composition and quorum.

But the government has said it won’t recognise its decision or print it in the country’s official gazette.

The situation means that Poland, a country of 40 million people, could, the same day, enter into judicial limbo: It’s top court won’t be able to issue binding verdicts, while refusing to make changes to go back to business as usual.

MEPs will also hold a debate on Poland in Strasbourg next week, with Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo saying on Tuesday that she’ll attend.

What does EU scrutiny of Poland mean?

The EU Commission will discuss on Wednesday the state of play in Poland, and might launch a monitoring procedure against Warsaw. But what does this procedure mean, and does it matter?

EUobserved

How to build an illiberal democracy in the EU

With Brussels increasingly worried by Poland, we take a look how Hungary's Viktor Orban created a template for dismantling democratic checks and balances inside an EU state.

Stakeholder

What is really happening in Poland?

Poland is a stable, democratic member state of the European Union, respecting European values, while shaping its internal legal order in a sovereign manner, in accordance with the democratically expressed will of its people.

News in Brief

  1. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  2. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  3. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  4. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  5. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  6. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  7. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  8. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  8. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  11. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  2. European far-right political party risks collapse
  3. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  4. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  5. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  6. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  7. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  8. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?