Saturday

28th May 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".

France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

EU Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday that Poland's recovery plan could be approved within a week. This could also help unblock Warsaw's reluctance to agree to the tax deal.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us