21st Oct 2016


Poland in spotlight This WEEK

  • EU Commission president Juncker (l) and Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo at the opening of the UN climate summit last December (Photo: European Commission)

Controversial new laws on the constitutional tribunal and the media adopted recently in Poland will be in the spotlight this week in Brussels, as the EU Commission is expected to hold its first debate on Wednesday (13 January) on the rule of law in the Eastern European EU member state.

Critics say the legislation, rushed through by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which curtails the duties of the constitutional tribunal, effectively erases the system of checks and balances on the government. The placing of the state media under direct government control also rang alarm bells.

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Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, who oversees rule of law issues, sent two letters to Warsaw on the matters. But Poland answered on Thursday (7 January) with a fiery letter accusing the commission of being "unjust, biased and politically engaged".

The discussion in the college of commissioners is expected to take stock of developments in Poland, and the commission might eventually decide to launch the rule of law procedure, established in 2014, to assess the health of Polish democracy and make recommendations if necessary.

Given the sensitive political nature of the issue, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday hit a conciliatory tone, saying the EU was not bashing Poland. But that was before Poland's reply.

Turkey and migration

Timmermans will travel to the Turkish capital this weekend to hold talks with officials on Monday (11 January) after he said that the EU was "a long way from being satisfied" with the efforts by Ankara to help stem the flow of migrants crossing into Europe.

The EU has offered €3bn in aid and political concessions, such as an easing of visa restrictions and the opening of new chapters in its EU membership process last November.

"There is still a lot of work to do there," said Timmermans recently, who plans to discuss progress and see how the EU aid can be used there to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis.

On Thursday (14 January) migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos will meet with MEPs from the civil liberties committee to debate the border coast guard package presented recently by the commission.

He is also expected to give an assessment of the implementation of measures to tackle the refugee crisis, as only 272 asylum seekers have been relocated so far within the EU.

Juncker will travel to Berlin on Thursday to meet with German chancellor Angela Merkel, and migration will be among the topics discussed.

The Dutch come to town

As the Dutch presidency of the EU kicks in, MEPs will have a chance to hear from government ministers throughout next week on the agenda for the next six months.

Women shake Poland's pillars of power

Polish women are marching again this Sunday and Monday. They could succeed where the opposition, the European Commission and other protests failed, and redraw Poland's political map.

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