Thursday

17th Jan 2019

EP to hold debate on Kaczynski's Poland

  • Concern is growing in EP over PiS' governing style (Photo: metaphox)

The European People’s Party (EPP) intends to call a debate on Poland at the European Parliament’s plenary agenda next week, amid concern about democracy and rule of law since a new right-wing government came into power.

Sources told EUobserver they’d like to see a debate with statements from the EU Commission and the Council on “threats to the rule of law,” with support from socialist and liberal MEPs.

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There will be no resolution, so voting will not take place.

A final decision to put Poland on the agenda will be made Wednesday by the groups’ leaders and by EP president Martin Schulz.

Concerns over the health of Polish democracy were raised after the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) of Jaroslaw Kaczynski reversed last-minute appointments of constitutional judges by the previous government.

Four new constitutional judges were sworn in by president Andrzej Duda, an ally of PiS last Thursday night (3 December). The move came after parliament, dominated by PiS, appointed five new judges to the highest court in a move the opposition says was illegal.

PiS has said judges in the Constitutional Court need to be replaced to reflect the new balance of power, Reuters reported. The news agency said gaining control of the court would make it easier for PiS to overhaul Poland’s retirement system and curb foreign ownership of banking and media.

Opposition politicians and liberal media have accused the government of seeking to take charge of neutral institutions.

But PiS says the previous government of the conservative Civic Platform had no right to appoint judges before the election it knew it would lose.

The scenario is reminiscent of the repeated EP debates on Hungary in previous years, where socialists, liberals, greens and far-left MEPs have criticised prime minister Viktor Orban on media freedom, rule of law, and, more recently, on his comments on the death penalty and immigration.

The EP has adopted five critical resolutions on Hungary since 2011 and invited Orban several times for heated debates.

But its efforts were counterproductive. He tended to come out looking strong because MEPs have little power to sanction or discipline national governments.

The majority of Orban’s political family, the EPP, has supported him in the EP hearings.

Orban’s shadow looms over the Polish debate, as the EU once again struggles to address rule of law issues in a member state.

Politicians from Civic Platform, which is also a member of the EPP, weren’t keen to hold a debate on their own country, saying it could backfire.

Grzegorz Schetyna, Poland’s former minister of foreign affairs said the debate should be postponed. “It’s too early. Let’s give more time to Poles to try to solve it with Polish proceedings in Poland,” he told press in Brussels.

But the EPP, where sources say German politicians are concerned about Poland’s right-wing turn, planned to go ahead with its request as of Tuesday evening.

Guy Verhofstadt, the liberal group leader, said the debate will go ahead.

But he backtracked somewhat after meeting Ryszard Petru, the leader of a new liberal party in Poland, Nowoczesna, which also says the debate should come later.

“The best way to solve the constitutional crisis is within Poland,” Verhofstadt said.

“The main thing is not to point the finger.”

Poland's ruling party shows true colours

Poland's newly elected ruling party is showing off its confrontational style by overturning appointments of top judges and stepping up the rhetoric against Russia.

EP debate on Poland could turn into 'carnage'

Polish PM Szydlo to confront EU critics on the state of Polish democracy. The EPP might try to defuse tension. The UK's likely to back her. But sources predict "carnage."

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