Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Hungary veto sets scene for EU battle on Poland

  • Poland's Morawiecki (l) with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban (r) in Brussels last week (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Hungary and the Czech Republic have backed Poland in its dispute with the EU, as the war on rule of law moved to a larger theatre.

Hungary promised to veto EU sanctions on Poland after the European Commission triggered a punitive process over Polish judicial reforms on Wednesday (20 December).

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.

"We shall defend Poland in the face of an unfair, fabricated political procedure," Hungary's deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjen said the same day.

The Czech Republic reacted at a higher level, but with no concrete pledge.

The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis, phoned his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki to say he was "convinced" that the commission's action "stems from a lack of communication" and that sanctions would "have a negative impact on the whole region".

The commission decision shifted the dispute to the wider European arena after two years of bilateral talks.

Member states are to vote in Brussels on 29 January whether they agree the Polish reforms constitute a "clear risk of a serious breach of rule of law".

That decision is to be taken by a four-fifths majority.

But a subsequent one, to confirm Poland is guilty of "a serious and persistent breach", must be taken by a consensus of the EU-27 minus Poland, prior to the adoption of sanctions, which would freeze Poland's EU voting rights.

Germany and France have backed the commission.

The Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, expected support from the UK ahead of British prime minister Theresa May's visit to Warsaw on Thursday.

But May's office dampened those expectations.

It said she would "raise her concerns [on rule of law] with the [Polish] prime minister", adding "we expect all our partners to abide by international norms".

Italy and Sweden also lined up with the EU mainstream.

"The reform launched by the Warsaw government risks violating the rule of law," Italy's EU affairs minister, Sandro Gozi, said.

"We have confidence in the judgement of the commission," Anna Lind, the Swedish EU affairs minister, also said.

Duda's defiance

The Polish reforms, a set of 13 laws passed by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, would give it political control over courts and judges.

Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, vowed to sign into life two of the bills in defiance of commission appeals.

He repeated government lines - that the commission was acting on "political" motives to harm PiS, that Poland rejected EU "diktats", and that the reforms were needed to purge a Communist-era clique in the judiciary.

"I don't see a problem with parliament having more influence over who becomes a judge," he said.

Waldemar Zurek, a judge on Poland's constitutional tribunal, did see a problem.

He warned that other countries might refuse to recognise the validity of Polish court verdicts in future, prompting a breakdown in judicial cooperation.

But Zbigniew Ziobro, the Polish justice minister, said the EU clash would end in the commission backing down and in Poland being taken more seriously in future.

"Poland is one of the largest EU countries and we expect to be treated with respect, not like some messenger boy," he said.

Too big to fail?

Konrad Szymanski, the Polish EU affairs minister, also said Poland was too big to be sidelined.

He warned that the EU clash would "create a hitherto unseen distrust toward the European integration project" in Polish society.

For Donald Tusk, the EU Council head and a former Polish leader, that was exactly what PiS wanted.

"There's still a gigantic weight of hope in Brussels ... that Poland will remain in the Union," he said. "But I think those in power [in Poland] aren't enthusiastic, to speak delicately, about our EU membership," he said.

Tusk's former foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, went further, saying PiS was creating the kind of regime seen under Franco in Spain.

"That vision is unacceptable from the point of view of the European Union and must, sadly, lead to Polexit," he said.

Opinion

How powerful is Poland's Morawiecki?

The new prime minister of Poland is on a collision course with the EU Commission as well as his party. His debut appearance - and early departure - at last week's summit indicates his future is up in the air.

New Polish PM visits Hungary in snub to Brussels

In his first official bilateral visit since taking office, Poland's new prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki travels to Budapest, which vowed to defend Warsaw from any EU sanctions over its judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Belgium lowers terror alert level
  2. France, Spain set to gain seats in post-Brexit EU parliament
  3. Orban family probed over 'fraudulent' EU projects
  4. Spanish judge rejects Puigdemont arrest warrant
  5. Austria plans to sue Commission over Hungary's nuclear plant
  6. Puigdemont proposed as sole candidate for Catalan leadership
  7. Abbas in Brussels to discuss Palestinian state recognition
  8. Exiled Catalan leader leaves Belgium for first time

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. MEPs may bar killer robots and drones from EU research cash
  2. Europe's social democrats are having a hard time
  3. How Oettinger's CO2 permit sale could fill Brexit blackhole
  4. New Polish foreign minister tries to charm EU commission
  5. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on agenda This WEEK
  6. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  7. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  8. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap