Saturday

25th May 2019

'We will continue' with changes, Polish PM tells EU

Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo rejected allegations that her government’s policies are eroding the rule of law during a European Parliament debate on Tuesday (19 January).

“Poland is a democratic country,” Szydlo, of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, told MEPs. She said she disagreed with the decision by the EU Commission to launch an investigation into whether the government breached EU rules on media freedom and the rule of law, but insisted she would cooperate.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“Poland does not deserve to be monitored. The rule of law, human rights are not being breached in Poland. The changes carried out by our government are in accordance with EU treaties,” she said.

The Polish government sent their responses to the EU executive’s questions on Tuesday.

Commission vice president in charge of rule of law affairs Frans Timmermans promised an evidence-based dialogue, but said there was still a risk of a “systemic threat" to the rule of law.

Critical MEPs claimed Szydlo’s government has put the public broadcaster under its direct control, ignored rulings of the constitutional court and curbed judges' power to place checks on the government.

Political, not legal

Szydla emphasised how important Europe is for Poland, but also suggested that sovereignty on internal matters should be respected.

“We are part of the united Europe,” she said, adding: “We want to feel that Poland is a free and sovereign member state that can always count on the EU’s support, and that internal matters and its sovereignty are respected.”

“We have never wanted to dominate the tribunal. The dispute about the constitutional court is political, not legal. It is an internal matter and Poland should solve it on its own.”

She argued that the previous government of the liberal-conservative Civic Platform (PO) had attempted to stack the constitutional court with its supporters before the October elections, knowing they were going to lose, and her government was there to remedy the situation.

The European People's Party (EPP), a conservative parliamentary group of which PO is a member, issued mild criticism of the government's actions for undermining democratic principles. EPP group leader Manfred Weber was not in the speaking role, so as to avoid stoking anti-German sentiment in Poland.

“It’s not a question of laws, but values. You can change the laws, but you cannot change the values,” the EPP's Esteban Gonzalez Pons said.

'Bigger challenges' jibe

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, dominated by the UK Conservatives, stood by its Polish member, PiS.

Its MEPs accused the commission and the EP of double standards, emphasising that when the previous Polish government bent the rules and appointed constitutional court judges there was no EU inquiry into those measures.

During the debate, which lasted over three hours, Szydlo defied calls to say if she was ready to amend laws if the commission’s concerns were validated.

"We will continue our programme, because that is what the electorate expects from us," she said.

In a feisty comment, she reminded MEPs that the EU had bigger challenges to face than internal issues in Poland.

"I must say I do not see the need to devote so much time to Poland ... I think you have many important issues to address," Szydlo said.

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders, representing the Dutch presidency of the EU, told Szydlo: “EU membership not only entails benefits but responsibilities for common values, notably rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights.”

Koenders, also said that the Dutch presidency would hold a rule of law debate at the general affairs council in May.

EU and Poland aim to calm tensions

EU Council president Donald Tusk and Polish president Andrzej Duda tried to calm tensions ahead of an EP debate on recent reforms in Poland that critics say threaten the rule of law.

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."

EU commission puts Poland on the hook

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.

Poland's constitutional dispute escalates

Activists have begun camping outside the prime minister's office in Warsaw after the government refused to recognise a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  2. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  3. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  4. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  5. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  6. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  7. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  8. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal

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

Latest News

  1. Irish greens take Dublin in second EU exit poll
  2. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  3. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  4. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  5. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  6. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU
  7. Dutch socialists on top in first EP election exit poll
  8. No usage data kept for EU parliament's 'Citizens' App'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us