21st Sep 2019

EU death penalty day gets Polish blessing

Poland has lifted its veto on creating a "European Day Against the Death Penalty," clearing the way for EU justice ministers to adopt the plan in Brussels on Friday (7 December).

The move will see the EU join the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe and NGOs such as Amnesty International in campaigning for worldwide abolition every year on 10 October.

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Abolition is already a pre-requisite for joining the EU, but Poland's previous government - led by the rightist and populist Law and Justice party - took a lone stance against the project earlier this year.

The new government, led by the more liberal Civic Platform, has promised to return Poland to the EU mainstream on a range of issues including civil rights and euro-adoption.

"Everything has changed in Poland. The government has changed. Poland has changed and the decision has changed," interior minister Grzegorz Schetyna told Polish press agency PAP on the eve of the Friday meeting.

The death penalty shift was quickly welcomed by the Portuguese EU presidency, but some EU diplomats remain curious how Civic Platform will handle harder issues, such as a proposed Russia-Germany gas pipeline, which threatens Polish energy interests.

"There is definitely a change of style, but some of the substantial problems remain the same," one contact said.

Amnesty International reports "at least" 1,591 people were legally executed in 2006. China is the most prolific. EU ally, the US, favours lethal injection. Belarus shoots people, while Iran practices public stoning and hanging.

The EU in November helped push through a non-binding UN resolution against capital punishment, but faced criticism from Caribbean and Asian states for trying to impose values in a neo-colonialist way.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

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