Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

Polish 'coup' dispute threatens German relations

  • Schulz: 'What is happening in Poland has the characteristics of a coup' (Photo: European Parliament)

Poland’s new government is trading insults with the head of the EU parliament, in a dispute which threatens to harm Polish-German relations.

Martin Schulz, a German Socialist who has led the EU assembly since 2012, told a German radio station, Deutschlandfunk, on Monday (14 December) the Polish government’s attempt to stuff Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal with political allies violates EU norms.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

“What is happening in Poland has the characteristics of a coup and is dramatic. I am going on the principle that we are going to discuss this in detail this week at the European Parliament, or at the latest, during the session in January,” he said.

Giacomo Fassina, his spokesman, later told the Bloomberg news agency that Schulz has “concern on one of the founding principles of the rule of law in the EU, namely the division of powers within a democracy.”

The Polish PM, Beata Szydlo, from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, the same day demanded an “apology.”

“Something is wrong when the European Parliament president expresses his opinion in this way about a member state,” she told press in Warsaw.

The Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said in written remarks: “Such a high-ranking politician should be far better informed before making public statements.”

He told press in Brussels he’s happy that Polish MEPs from the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party urged Schulz to delay the EU parliament debate because it would be “harmful for Poland.”

“This debate, about the disposition of our institutions, is taking place in Poland. There’s no need for it in the EU,” he noted.

Echoing Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, who once said he wants to build an “illiberal democracy,” Waszczykowski added: “There are different forms of democracy in the European Union … so there’s no basis to stigmatise Poland.”

In a sign the dispute risks harming German relations, he also told German daily Berliner Zeitung that Germany should not expect Polish solidarity on refugee relocation because it kept restrictions on Polish workers after enlargement in 2004.

The new Polish interior minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, has gone further.

He said on Polish TV in November that Schulz, who’d also criticised PiS on refugees, is guilty of “German arrogance.”

“We're talking here in Warsaw, which was destroyed by Germans. In [Warsaw’s] Wola [district] 50,000 men, women, and children were murdered by officers of the German state,” he added.

The ugly rhetoric echoes previous Polish-German clashes when Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is still the PiS party leader and the power behind Szydlo’s throne, was Polish PM in 2006.

Some Polish diplomats say Kaczynski’s abbrasive style helps Warsaw to win battles in the EU Council, where member states decide on EU legislation.

But others are worried that it undermines Poland’s international image.

For its part, the New York Times, the US paper of record, on Tuesday published a story with a laundry list of PiS sins.

It noted that, the constitutional crisis aside, PiS has: quashed a court case into abuse of power by its former security chief; threatened to crack down on independent media; tried to stop the production of a play, Death and the Maiden, by Elfriede Jelinek, on grounds it’s “pornographic”; and refused to display the EU flag at high-level events.

It quoted Robert Kropiwnicki, a PO MP, as saying Kaczynski is “developing Putinist standards,” by reference to Russia’s autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin.

The US daily said PiS is fuelling “nationalist fervour,” which saw a right-wing youth group, in the Polish city of Wroclaw last month, burn the effigy of an Orthodox Jew.

Polish academics have also spoken out against PiS’ constitutional shenanigans.

Staff at the law faculty of Wroclaw University on Monday published a statement voicing “deep concern” about the government’s “lack of respect of … democratic standards.”

Mikolaj Czesniki, a scholar of politics at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw, told Gazeta Wyborcza, a PiS-critical daily: “I’m quite sure that many people, who have no ties to the current parliamentary majority [PiS], but who do have friends in it, are phoning their PiS buddies to ask: ‘What the hell are you doing?’.”

EP to hold debate on Kaczynski's Poland

Centre-right, centre-left, and liberal MEPs want a debate, next week, on democratic backsliding in Poland. But Polish politicians say it's too soon.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  2. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets
  3. Belarus vote: zero opposition candidates elected
  4. Germany: Tehran should hold dialogue with protesters
  5. US ex-diplomat: Trump's 'historical mistake' on EU
  6. France's MoDem finance director indicted on EP funds
  7. Cyprus hopes for reunification talks in December
  8. Russian link to €406m crypto disappearance

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Von der Leyen commission on track for December start
  2. Ukraine boats added to EU-Russia summit preparations
  3. Migrants in Malmo - separating fact from fiction
  4. Which parties and countries chair the EP committees?
  5. European beekeeping in crisis
  6. France unveils new model EU enlargement
  7. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  8. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us