20th Mar 2018

EU and Poland in last minute talks on rule of law

  • Prime minister Beata Szydlo said that more and more people in the commission wanted to ruin the EU (Photo: Pawel Kula / Sejm.)

European commissioner Frans Timmermans is making a last minute trip to Warsaw on Tuesday (24 May), where he will meet with prime minister Beata Szydlo.

The two are expected to discuss possible solutions to the legal crisis that erupted last year in Poland.

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The Law and Justice (PiS) government had tried to appoint new judges to Poland’s constitutional court and pass a reform curtailing its powers. The court judged the steps to be unconstitutional, but the government hasn't recognised that ruling.

The European Commission had given Poland until Monday (23 May) to solve concerns over the rule of law.

Timmermans had prepared an opinion that would have marked the second stage of a rule of law monitoring procedure launched for the first time in EU history, in January this year.

But on Monday, a commission spokesman referred to an ”ongoing and constructive discussions with the Polish authorities” and said it was not sure that the report would be adopted.

Poland’s foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski later told reporters he was pleased that the commission had shown a will to resume dialogue, ”rather than the ultimatum that they made some days ago.”

He said talks were taking place at an expert level, without the involvement of ministers, and that Warsaw had presented many compromise solutions last week.

”We are interested in dialogue, the prospect of explaining the situation and bringing it to a happy end,” he added.

The opinion - which is said to exist only in a paper version to make it more difficult to leak - was seen last week by Rzeczpospolita.

The Polish daily reported that the commission confirmed a report by the Venice Commission, a panel of European legal experts, which warned earlier this year that the constitutional court reform would undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

But the commission reportedly went even further, saying that Poland did not apply democratic standards.

According to Rzeczpospolita, the commission said that there was no democracy and respect for human rights without the rule of law, which had been hampered by the constitutional court crisis.

The EU executive was also said to remind Poland that it was is a member of the EU, where respect for the rule of law is a prerequisite for confidence of citizens and governments of other member states.

PiS summoned a parliamentary debate on the commission’s opinion last Friday (20 May).

Prime minister Szydlo accused the commission of malice, airing her anger and surprise over the announcement that the opinion was to be adopted on Monday.

"We are in a dialogue, then media announce that the report is already ready," she said, adding that more and more people in the commission wanted to ruin the EU.

The Sejm, the Polish parliament, also passed a resolution confirming that Poland was a sovereign country.

Referring to commission sources, the RFM FM radio said that the opinion would probably be discussed again by the commissioners during their weekly college meeting on Wednesday (25 May). The report could be updated with Poland’s proposals to solve the conflict, and adopted.

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EU confrontation with Poland escalates

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On eve of potentially damning EU decision, Polish strongman Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said EU rule of law monitoring could be challenged in Luxembourg court.


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