EU not convinced by Polish arguments on rule of law changes – The Journal
Top European Union leaders are unconvinced by Polish arguments that the country’s fundamental judicial changes will not undermine the bloc and have said withholding billions in EU stimulus funds will likely continue unless Warsaw gets back on track
BRUSSELS (AP) – Polish arguments that the fundamental judicial changes made by the country would not undermine the European Union on Friday failed to convince key bloc leaders who said withholding billions in stimulus funds of the EU would likely continue unless Warsaw came back into line.
At the end of a two-day EU summit dominated by the deadlock on core values ââsuch as judicial independence and the rule of EU law in member states, a large majority of leaders insisted that preparations for sanctions against Poland should continue.
“No European country can call itself European if its judges are not independent,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.
And when Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cast doubts that EU law should trump national rules, many leaders insisted the EU executive had no other choice. than to oppose Poland over the rule of law dispute.
âThere is no alternative. The laws are clear, âsaid Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. âThe treaty, the basis of the union, has been called into question. It is clear that the Commission cannot go ahead.
EU countries have for years warned of what they see as a setback in democratic principles in Poland with regard to an independent judiciary and free media. They said Morawiecki’s nationalist government piled the Constitutional Court with hand-picked judges and then asked the same court to challenge the supremacy of EU law.
To counter this, Morawiecki claims that the EU institutions are so thirsty for power that they treat the 27 member countries as mere vassals, seizing power without a legal basis and imposing its values ââagainst the will of the sovereign peoples.
And threatening sanctions, he said the EU was using outright “blackmail”.
Even though many potential sanctions would be months or even years away, the EU is withholding 36 billion euros in resilience funds for Poland aimed at helping the nation recover from the pandemic. He did not release the funds because Poland must meet certain conditions that many leaders say require legal changes that Morawiecki refuses to make.
“I do not see if it still persists, that the Commission decides on the resilience plan for Poland”, said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. âGeneral rule of law issues need to be addressed. It was very clear, âhe said, adding that a large majority of leaders thought that way.
The EU executive body can initiate infringement proceedings or activate a mechanism allowing the suspension of other EU payments to a member country violating the rule of law principles.
Such a confrontation could, however, plunge the bloc into another existential crisis that German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to avoid.
Merkel said that in their meetings with Morawiecki, she and Macron “expressed our great concern that we need to get out of this escalating spiral, because the rule of law – especially in this context of judicial independence – is fine. sure a key pillar of European values.
Poland has recently been seen as trying to undermine the EU with anti-Brussels rhetoric and actions, just as Prime Minister Viktor Orban has done in recent years. He fears that the EU is unraveling at the edges and that another exit, like the UK’s, is looming.
During a press briefing in Brussels after the summit, Morawiecki argued that Poland has no problem with the rule of law and that those who think he does not understand the problems Poland has faced with a judicial system that needed radical reforms, and still needs more reforms. He also argued that there must be limits to the power of the EU, saying it is not a “superstate”.
“No one has accepted this in Europe,” he said.
Morawiecki argued that there are areas over which the EU has no responsibility, citing sports, health, public safety and border security as examples.
Even though Morawiecki openly professed his commitment to the Union and its guiding principles before meeting with leaders at the two-day summit, he has done his European credentials a disservice by meeting on the sidelines with the politician from French extreme right Marine Le Pen.
Le Pen has long advocated for France to leave the bloc, but recently returned to argue that the EU should be changed from within to give sovereign nations more power at the expense of Brussels.
Le Pen posted two photos of their meeting on Twitter, claiming that she and Morawiecki agreed on the need to defend the sovereignty of nation states and discussed “unacceptable blackmail by the European Commission”.
Morawiecki said he met Le Pen at his request and that it was normal for him to meet all of the main French presidential candidates.
The meeting shocked many in Poland as the ruling party has so far resisted cooperation with the French far right due to its ties to the Kremlin. Opposition leader Donald Tusk, a former EU leader, commented on Twitter that as EU leaders “try to resolve the dilemma of how to keep Poland in the EU, defending the rule of law and unlocking funds, Prime Minister Morawiecki meets with pro-Putin and Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen. “
Geir Moulson in Berlin, Mike Corder in The Hague, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Angela Charlton in Paris and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed.