Tuesday

28th Sep 2021

Poland offends US and Israel with media and Holocaust laws

  • Warsaw is being criticised by the US and Israel for its new media law and for blocking property claims by Holocaust survivors (Photo: Kamil Porembinski)

Poland has caused fresh harm to its international image by voting to dismantle a US media firm and, separately, to block property claims by Holocaust survivors.

"Large US commercial investments in Poland tie our prosperity together and enhance our collective security. This draft legislation threatens media freedom and could undermine Poland's strong investment climate," US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Wednesday (13 August) on Poland's new media law.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He also voiced "deep concern" over the Holocaust-claims decision and urged Polish president Andrzej Duda to "not sign the bill into law", in an extraordinary rebuke by Poland's principal security ally.

"I condemn the legislation that was passed in the Polish parliament today, which damages both the memory of the Holocaust and the rights of its victims," Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid said.

The media law passed by 228 votes against 216 on Wednesday.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party won by poaching MPs from minor parties, despite having lost its coalition majority in a political row one day earlier.

But it won in an air of farce when Polish MPs first postponed the media vote, then the parliament speaker, Elżbieta Witek (PiS), overturned the postponement.

Witek's reversal was "absolutely illegal", Borys Budka, an MP from the opposition Civic Platform party, said.

The media law will force US firm Discovery to give up control of TVN - Poland's largest independent broadcaster.

PiS says it is designed to lock out potentially hostile foreign investors from China and Russia from Poland's media sector.

"We have the right to regulate questions about capital in a way the Polish parliament deems appropriate," PiS spokesman Piotr Müller said.

But critics see it as a blow against free press, in a nasty climate in which PiS has also attacked independent courts, molested Poland's LGBTI minority, and fulminated against the EU.

"This law clearly violates the principle of media freedom," and it would "push us toward a confrontation with the United States, which is our most important ally", Jarosław Gowin, a former deputy prime minister in the PiS coalition, who was fired for opposing the media bill, said on Wednesday.

Poland was "dismantling democracy inside a member state of the EU", British historian Timothy Garton-Ash told The Guardian newspaper.

"The outcome should ... be deeply concerning to any enterprise investing in Poland," TVN owner Discovery said.

Daylight robbery?

Meanwhile, the anti-restitution law, passed also on Wednesday, is to impose a 30-year moratorium on property claims, blocking Jewish cases from World War 2, as well as Polish communist-era ones.

It was called "a daylight robbery that desecrates the memory of the Holocaust," by Mickey Levy, the Knesset speaker, who decided not to renew an Israeli-Polish parliamentary friendship group in reaction.

"Poland's decision to pass this immoral law harms the friendship and bilateral relations between Israel and Poland," Levy said.

And it was "equally unfair for both Jews and non-Jews," Gideon Taylor, the chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organisation, noted.

PiS was turning Poland into "an anti-Western dictatorship", for Radosław Sikorski, a Polish centre-right MEP and former foreign minister.

But the fact PiS had lost its parliamentary majority by defenestrating Gowin and his party from its coalition meant its days in power could be numbered, Donald Tusk, a Polish centre-right opposition leader and former prime minister, said.

"The [PiS] parliamentary majority, glued together with the mud of corruption and blackmail, is crumbling before our eyes. It may go on for a while but it is no longer able to govern," he said.

Polish-Belarus asylum-seeker border standoff continues

An EU Commission spokesperson called the situation's origins as "an attempt by a third county to instrumentalise people for political purposes, which we very firmly reject and described as a form of aggression".

Feature

The dilemma of Europe's returning female jihadis

This month, three Swedish women landed in Stockholm, expelled from Syria together with their children. Two of the women were arrested, one suspected of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Their children were immediately taken into custody.

Yemen's refugees in 'appalling conditions', says UN agency

Yemen hosts around 130,000 refugees and 12,000 asylum seekers. In a country wrecked by six years of war, many find themselves in dire conditions and unable to leave, says Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the UN refugee agency's representative in Yemen.

Opinion

Textbook hypocrisy: EU's new low point on Palestine

Brussels institutions are devoting time not to Israel's illegal settlements and the two-state solution, but to an entirely different, peripheral issue: an EU-funded study of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks, published in June by the Georg-Eckert Institute in Germany.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. Scaling up tidal requires flood of new cash
  2. German coalition calculus dominates This WEEK
  3. No clear winner to succeed Merkel in Germany
  4. Banks fuelling expansion of oil-and-gas Arctic extraction
  5. The dilemma of Europe's returning female jihadis
  6. Why Draghi could be a two-term prime-minister
  7. Activists: 'More deaths' expected on Polish-Belarus border
  8. EU unveils common charger plan - forcing Apple redesign

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us