Monday

30th Nov 2020

Poland risks leaving EU with new judges law, Tusk warns

  • Donald Tusk in his time as EU Council president (Photo: European Council)

Poland risked blundering out of the EU with a new gagging law on judges, former EU Council president Donald Tusk and others have warned.

And its rejection of EU energy policy was a form of treason, Tusk added.

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  • PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski risked blundering out of Europe, Tusk warned a second time (Photo: pis.org.pl)

Simultaneously, Polish anti-LGBTI mores were making it look even more like a pariah, the European Parliament (EP) indicated.

"We [Poland] are leaving the EU step by step. It's not an exaggeration. This departs from all the norms on which the European Union is built," Tusk told press in Gdansk, on Poland's Baltic coast, on Wednesday (18 December).

"One thing is for sure, there's no other way. They [the Polish government] simply have to withdraw this [gagging law] project," he added.

Tusk, who is also a former Polish prime minister, spoke to press amid fresh anti-government protests in Warsaw, Gdansk, Krakow and other cities the same day.

The rallies, which took place outside court buildings, came after the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party tabled a new bill on judicial discipline this week.

The law would ban Polish judges from referring some questions to the EU court in Luxembourg, violating the EU treaty on primacy of European law in member states.

It would also ban judges from attending protests like those on Wednesday, where several of them showed up, and from criticising PiS in public.

"This law does not allow judges to ask questions on preliminary rulings [at the EU court], so it does not allow the normal functioning of the Polish justice system in the EU," Polish Supreme Court president Małgorzata Gersdorf said on Polish TV earlier on Tuesday.

"It could quickly lead to finding ourselves [Poland] outside the [European] Union," she said.

"Polish authorities are attempting to remove what little remains of judicial independence," Amnesty International, a British human rights organisation, also said.

The PiS gagging bill was the latest step in judicial reforms which prompted the EU to launch sanctions procedures against Poland on abuse of rule of law two years ago.

PiS has also clashed with the EU on boycotts of migrant-sharing quotas.

And Tusk already warned, last November, that PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski either planned "to leave the EU or [could] just initiate some processes that lead to that outcome" by accident.

Tusk also attacked Kaczynski over energy and climate change on Wednesday, after Poland boycotted a recent EU deal on CO2 emissions.

That decision risked costing Poland some of its EU subsidies, while forcing it to buy more coal from Russian oligarchs, feeding Russia's war effort in Ukraine, Tusk said.

"For me, on merit, it amounts to a betrayal of the [Polish] state," Tusk said.

Like France?

For his part, Poland's deputy justice minister, Sebastian Kaleta, earlier defended the judicial gagging law by saying it resembled a French model.

But the European Parliament (EP), also on Wednesday, made Poland look far away from the EU mainstream on values.

More than 460 MEPs voted in Strasbourg to "condemn" Polish local authorities for having declared themselves to be "LGBTI ideology-free" zones.

"There is no such thing as 'LGBTI ideology', but being anti-LGBTI people is part of an ultra-conservative ideology," German socialist MEP Delara Burkhardt said.

PiS recently held on to power in elections marked by homophobic rhetoric.

And ILGA-Europe, a human rights NGO in Brussels, also rang the alarm bell on Wednesday.

Hate speech caused "hate crimes", it said, amid a spike in homophobic violence in the EU.

"Europe is at a dangerous crossroads," the NGO's Katrin Hugendubel also said.

The EU outcry came after some Polish municipalities adopted the anti-LGBTI declaration in June, which later accumulated 86 signatories.

No remorse

But PiS showed no remorse in its culture clash with Europe, as in its judicial, climate, and migration ones.

The very idea that LGBTI people had a hard time in Poland was "artificially created", PiS MEP and former Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski told Polish news website Onet.pl on Wednesday.

Poland had never interfered in people's "intimate" affairs, such as "whom they shared their bedroom with", he said.

PiS itself had staff in top positions who were "from a different [sexual] orientation," another PiS MEP, who was its former interior minister, Joachim Brudziński, also said.

And those Polish MEPs who voted against the LGBTI-free zones "were, in truth, devastating Poland's image [in the EU] for the sake of their own interests," Brudziński added.

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