EU hit with PiS fury
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo (pictured) called the MEPs’ vote “scandalous” and Warsaw’s foreign ministry called the resolution a “political instrument of pressure on Poland”. In a resolution adopted by 438 to 152 of MEPs, with 71 abstentions, the parliament triggered the first stage of a “rule-of-law procedure” against the Law and Justice (PiS) government.
The argument has its roots in three bills put forward this year by PiS aimed at reforming the judiciary.
Warsaw claims that changes are needed because the current system is unfair and inefficient and has not been upgraded since the collapse of communism in 1990.
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the European liberal group, said the PiS government had “lost its senses”.
The process could lead to Poland having its EU voting rights suspended and sanctions.
Next the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee is due to draw up a legal proposal to formally request that the procedure be activated because of a “clear risk of a serious breach” of EU values.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, is taking on Poland over the proposed judicial changes and other alleged democratic infringements.
Frans Timmermans, the commission’s vice-president, said yesterday (Wednesday) “if you want to play football, you abide by the rules of the game”.
He told the European Parliament: “The EU can’t function if member states start saying, ‘we pick and choose which rules we have adhered to are applicable to us’.”
The Strasbourg chamber saw a heated debate with Polish members arguing that the Warsaw government could change the legal system and that the EU had no right to interfere in domestic affairs.
Ryszard Legutko, a PiS MEP, accused the EU of waging an illegal “crusade against Poland”. He said the German media was also holding an “anti-Polish orgy”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier this year that the PiS dismissal of an EU inquiry into its changes to the judiciary were “very worrying”.
“However much I want to have very good relations with Poland . . . we cannot simply hold our tongues and not say anything for the sake of peace and quiet. This is a serious issue, because the requirements for cooperation within the EU are the principles of the rule of law,” the veteran chancellor said.
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. Picture credit: Wikimedia