Monday

28th Nov 2022

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".

Socialists opposed parliament taking Qatar rights stand

The socialists in the European Parliament are leading compromise talks on human rights in Qatar despite voting against putting the issue to a plenary vote. The move comes after the Left demanded that the European Parliament take a stand.

No top EU officials going to Qatar World Cup

None of the four top EU officials are going to the Qatar World Cup amid a stink on human rights, but some are more brave than others in criticising the gas-rich emirate.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan
  2. EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK
  3. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  4. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  5. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  6. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  7. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'
  8. EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us