23rd Mar 2018

Insults fly after EU ultimatum to Poland

  • Kaczynski with Law and Justice prime minister Beata Szydlo in parliament (Photo:

The Polish government has accused the European Commission of “arrogance” and of “playing God” in a dispute on judicial reform.

Wednesday’s (26 July) barrage of reactions came after the Commission, earlier the same day, gave Poland one month to address concerns on political interference in the judiciary amid threats of an unprecedented EU voting penalty.

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.

  • Duda declined to sign two of the laws after candlelight protests in Polish towns (Photo: Bartek Kuzia)

Zbigniew Ziobro, the Polish justice minister, said Frans Timmermans, the Dutch commissioner who delivered the ultimatum, had behaved with “insolence and arrogance” toward Poland and Polish people.

“Poland deserves respect and that's what we'll demand from you [Timmermans] and your colleagues”, he told a press briefing in the Polish parliament in Warsaw.

He said his ruling Law and Justice party needed to overhaul Polish courts to stamp out corruption and maladministration.

“Our task is to reform the judiciary in Poland. We will do it in a democratic way and no one will stop us,” he said.

Konrad Szymanski, Poland’s EU affairs minister, said Timmermans’ concerns were “groundless” and that “organisation of the judicial sphere is a national competence”.

The ministers’ reactions were among the more polite ones.

Rafal Bochenek, a Polish government spokesman, told Pap, the Polish press agency: “We won’t accept any blackmail on the part of EU officials, especially if it's not based on facts.”

Ryszard Legutko, a Law and Justice MEP, accused Timmermans of “Brezhnevism”, comparing the EU Commission to the Soviet Union under its Cold War leader Leonid Brezhnev.

“The European Commission is trying to play God,” he said.

Another Law and Justice MEP, Zbigniew Kuzmiuk, said the Commission’s threat - to potentially suspend Poland’s voting rights in the EU Council - was an “atomic weapon”.

“This attempt to deprive Poland of its voice in the EU Council is a brutal interference in the Polish political system,” he said.

The Commission issued its warning after Law and Justice passed four laws on judicial reform.

One gave it the power to appoint supreme court judges. A second one gave it new powers over the National Council of the Judiciary which controls the profession.

These two laws are up in the air after Polish president Andrzej Duda declined to sign them.

The third and fourth laws, which Duda has signed, gave Law and Justice the power to name the presidents of appeals and district courts and to appoint assistant judges in the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution.

Widening division

Poland also on Wednesday got a separate Commission ultimatum to start taking in asylum seekers from Greece and Italy within one month or face legal action.

The relocation quotas were imposed by an EU Council vote, but Poland has declined to respect that amid widening divisions between Brussels and Warsaw.

The Commission had earlier voiced concerns over Law and Justice’s takeover of Poland’s constitutional tribunal and state media.

The Polish government's poor relations with EU institutions include the European Council, whose president, former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, is a nemesis of Law and Justice party chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Kaczynski has accused Tusk of colluding with Russia over the Smolensk air disaster in 2010 in which Lech Kaczynski, his twin brother and the then Polish president, lost his life.

Roman Giertych, a Tusk plenipotentiary, told Polish TV on Wednesday that Polish prosecutors had summoned the European Council president to answer further questions in a Smolensk probe in Warsaw in August as the vendetta goes on.

EU Commission sets red lines for Poland on Article 7

The EU executive expects Warsaw to halt the judiciary reform and address concerns over the rule of law, and not to force out supreme court judges, or else the sanctions procedure will start.

Orban vows to defend Poland from EU's 'inquisition'

The Hungarian leader called EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans an "inquisitor", allied with George Soros and the Brussels elite, and argued for the EU executive to stop being a political body.


Young Poles can halt Kaczynski’s illiberal march

Debates are ongoing on whether president Duda vetoing two out of three bills on judicial reform should be seen as the opposition's success. But the protests brought about another, much less disputed success.


Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

News in Brief

  1. EU will be exempted from tariffs, says US minister
  2. Malmstroem: EU 'hopes' for US tariffs exemption
  3. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says
  4. Italy's centre-right set to share top posts with 5-star movement
  5. Brussels condemns tear gas in Kosovo parliament
  6. Finland pays billionaire €400,000 in EU farm subsidies
  7. 44 leaders sign up for Africa free trade area deal
  8. British 'blue' passports to be made in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU summit takes hard look at Russia
  2. Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing
  3. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  4. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  5. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  6. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  7. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  8. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections