Sunday

20th Jan 2019

EU and Poland aim to calm tensions

  • Andrzej Duda (L) and Donald Tusk, two Polish politicians on opposite sides of the political spectrum, met in Brussels (Photo: Council of the European Union)

EU council president Donald Tusk and Polish president Andrzej Duda attempted to calm tensions on Monday (18 January), a day before a debate about Poland in the European Parliament.

The new Polish government of the Law and Justice party (PiS) has been accused by critics of curbing the constitutional court’s ability to check on the government and putting party loyalists in charge of state broadcasters.

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The European Commission last week launched for the first time a monitoring procedure that is supposed to check the health of Polish democracy.

“Poland has no enemies in the EU,” said Tusk, who served as Polish prime minister between 2007 and 2014 with Civic Platform, a party now in opposition.

Tusk also warned that officials and politicians from the EU and Poland should not exaggerate in their statements and should refrain from hysterical behaviour.

“I want to deny any conspiracy theories supposedly created here in Europe,” Tusk said.

He criticised the procedure launched by the European Commission.

No EU Council discussion

“The European Commission is acting in good faith, it does not want to humiliate or stigmatise Poland. But this could be achieved by other methods, not necessarily by triggering this framework,” Tusk told the media on Monday.

“I’m not very enthusiastic about it, but this is an opportunity to tone down the negative emotions that have grown around Poland.”

Tusk also said he did not think Poland would ever become an issue for the European Council.

“I don’t believe it is a good idea to discuss the Polish situation at the EU Council,” he said.

For his part, Duda said he wanted to have a calm debate with Brussels.

“Nothing exceptional is happening in Poland,” Duda said, “we are not undermining our membership in the EU”.

“I appeal to calm down the debate, to have a rational dialogue, based on real facts, not some media creations, that have nothing to do with reality,” Duda said.

“I appeal to the European political scene to have an objective look at Poland, unnecessary emotions and lack of objective analysis very often lead to escalation, and this is not beneficial to the European unity.”

Tusk said it was of key importance for Poland to maintain the good reputation it had worked on for the past 25 years, recalling how Polish opponents of the Soviet-controlled regime had longed for EU membership.

“This reputation has been shaken slightly,” Tusk said.

Brexit, North Stream on the menu

Besides the Polish political issues, the two leaders talked about the UK's attempts to negotiate EU reforms, Ukraine, and the planned North Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany.

Duda said Poland wanted a deal that would help the UK remain in the EU.

“We must seek a cautious compromise that does not undermine basic freedoms that are important for Poland,” he said.

The Polish president heavily criticised the planned North Stream 2 gas pipeline that would circumvent Ukraine as a transit country, delivering gas from Russia to Europe, via Germany.

Duda questioned the economic logic behind the project, saying it was undermining energy security in Slovakia, Ukraine and Poland.

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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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The EU commission has triggered rule-of-law monitoring of Poland, in an unprecedented step, prompted by constitutional and media reforms. The move follows a nasty exchange of letters.

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