Friday

19th Jan 2018

Poland rejects 'groundless' EU complaint

  • Szydlo's government said Commission doubts were "groundless" and Macron was "arrogant" (Photo: European Council)

Poland has rejected a European Commission complaint on judicial reform, amid souring EU relations on many fronts.

“The legislative process which has the primary goal of reforming the justice system is in line with European standards and answers social expectations that have been growing for years,” the Polish foreign ministry said on Monday (28 August).

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  • Commission vowed sanctions if supreme court law implemented (Photo: Darwinek)

“The Commission’s doubts are groundless,” it said.

It said it had sent a 12-page file of more “exhaustive” legal explanations to Brussels to back up its position.

It also said it was willing to enter into a "dialogue", but only if this was free of "political elements".

The Polish reaction came on the expiry of a one-month deadline issued by the Commission in July.

The Commission had asked Poland to justify four laws on the judiciary passed by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party earlier this summer.

Two of these would give PiS control of supreme court appointments and of the National Council of the Judiciary, which regulates the profession.

The two others would give it control over the presidents of district and appeals courts and over the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution.

The Commission complaint was part of a “rule of law monitoring” process that could end in Poland having its voting rights suspended in the EU Council.

The process extends to the PiS party’s earlier reform of Poland’s constitutional court and its decision to ignore an EU court order to halt logging in a primeval forest.

The Commission has also launched two “infringement proceedings” against Poland that could end in EU fines.

One of them deals with alleged sexism in a judicial law on male and female judge’s retirement ages.

The other one is over Poland’s refusal to honour an EU Council vote on sharing asylum seekers with Greece and Italy.

Relations sour

Poland’s clashes with the EU institutions have soured bilateral relations.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that the situation in Warsaw was “serious”.

“We can’t say that [EU] member states have unlimited plurality. Rather, it has its limits at those points where fundamental democratic values might be infringed,” she said.

Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo also had a prickly exchange with French president Emmanuel Macron last Friday.

Macron had said that Poland was “isolating itself” in the EU and that PiS was “in conflict with” EU values.

Szydlo said Macron’s “arrogant comments” were a sign of his “lack of political experience”.

She also insinuated that France’s participation in EU migrant quotas had led to terrorist attacks there.

“I advise the president to take care of the affairs of his own country. Perhaps then he will be able to achieve the same economic results and the same level of citizens’ security that is guaranteed in Poland,” she said.

Polish workers

Macron’s remarks came amid France’s push to limit the EU rights of temporary workers from Poland and other central European states.

PiS ministers have in the past used even more colourful language in their EU rebuttals.

They accused the Commission of “blackmail” and “playing God” back in July. They also said Polish courts must be reformed due to corruption and maladministration.

"There is a question mark over Poland's European future today," European Council chief and former Polish leader Donald Tusk said on 4 August.

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One minister accused Commission of putting a terrorist "noose around Europe's neck", as Poland vowed to see the EU in court on migrant relocations.

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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.

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Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, said key EU policy on returning migrants to Libya is condemning them to "nightmarish conditions".

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