EU unconvinced by Polish arguments on rule of law changes

Oct 21, 2021, 10:20 PM | Updated: Oct 22, 2021, 11:09 am
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, center, speaks with European Commission President Ursul...

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, center, speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. European Union leaders conclude a two-day summit on Friday in which they discussed issues such as climate change, the energy crisis, COVID-19 developments and migration.(AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)

(AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Polish arguments that fundamental judicial changes the country has made would not undermine the European Union on Friday failed to convince key bloc leaders who said that the withholding of billions in EU recovery funds would likely continue unless Warsaw falls back into line.

At the end of a two-day EU summit dominated by the standoff over core values like judicial independence and the primacy of EU law in member states, a large majority of leaders insisted that preparations for sanctions against Poland needed to continue apace.

“No European country can call itself European if it’s judges are not independent,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

And when Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sowed the seeds of doubt that EU law should take a backseat to national rules, many leaders insisted that the EU’s executive arm had not choice but to move against Poland over the rule of law dispute.

“There are no alternatives. The laws are clear,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said. “The treaty … the basis of the union, was put into question. It’s clear the Commission cannot not go forward.”

EU nations have warned for years over what they see as a backsliding of democratic principles in Poland when it comes to an independent judiciary and free media. They said Morawiecki’s nationalist government stacked the constitutional court with handpicked judges and then had the same court challenge the supremacy of EU law.

To counter this, Morawiecki claims the EU institutions are so power-hungry that they treat the 27 member nations as mere vassals, grabbing power without a legal base and imposing its values against the wishes of sovereign peoples.

And by threatening sanctions, he said the EU was using plain “blackmail.”

Even if many potential sanctions would be months – if not years – away, the EU is holding back 36 billion euros in resilience funds for Poland aimed at helping the nation bounce back from the pandemic. It hasn’t released the funds because Poland needs to meet certain conditions that many leaders say necessitate legal changes Morawiecki refuses to make.

“I cannot see a situation if this is still lingering, that the Commission will decide on the resilience plan for Poland,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “The general issues around the rule of law have to be addressed. This was very clear,” he said, adding an large majority of leaders felt that way.

The EU’s executive arm can start infringement procedures, or activate a mechanism allowing the suspension of other EU payments to a member country breaching the principles of the rule of law.

Such a confrontation though could throw the bloc into another existential crisis which German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to avoid.

Merkel said that in their meetings with Morawiecki, she and Macron “expressed our great concern that we must get out of this escalating spiral, because the rule of law — particularly in this context of judicial independence — is of course a key pillar of European values.”

Poland has been perceived lately as trying to undermine the EU with anti-Brussels rhetoric and actions, much like Prime Minister Viktor Orban has done in recent years. It fears that the EU is fraying at the edges and that another exit, like the one from the United Kingdom, might loom.

At a news briefing in Brussels after the summit, Morawiecki argued that Poland has no problem with the rule of law and that those who think it does don’t understand the issues Poland has faced with a judiciary that needed radical reforms, and still needs more reforms. He also argued that there need to be limits to EU power, saying it’s not a “super state.”

“Nobody agreed to this in Europe,” he said.

Morawiecki argued that there are areas that the EU does not have responsibility over, citing sports, health, public safety and border security as examples.

Even though Morawiecki openly professed his attachment to the union and its guiding principles before meeting the leaders in the two-day summit, he did not do his EU credentials a favor by meeting with France’s far right politicians Marine Le Pen on the sidelines.

Le Pen was long arguing for France to leave the bloc but reverted recently to argue that the EU should be changed from within to give sovereign nations more powers at the expense of Brussels.

Le Pen posted two photos from their meeting on Twitter, saying she and Morawiecki agree on the need to defend the sovereignty of nation states and discussed “the unacceptable blackmail exercised by the European Commission.”

Morawiecki said he met Le Pen at her request and that it was normal for him to meet with all the major French presidential candidates.

The meeting shocked many in Poland since the ruling party has so far resisted cooperation with the French far right due to its Kremlin ties. Opposition leader Donald Tusk, a former EU leader, commented on Twitter that as EU leaders “try to solve dilemma of how to keep Poland in EU, defend rule of law & unblock funds, PM Morawiecki meets with pro-Putin & 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.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces funding crisis

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Tuesday it was unable to pay its 28,000 employees on time this month because of a major funding crisis, warning of potential cuts in vital services to millions of people amid a global pandemic. UNRWA runs schools, clinics and food distribution […]
1 day ago
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a video call of the VTB Capital "Russia Calling!" Investme...
Associated Press

Putin warns West: Moscow has ‘red line’ about Ukraine, NATO

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sternly warned NATO against deploying its troops and weapons to Ukraine, saying it represents a red line for Russia and would trigger a strong response. Commenting on Western concerns about Russia’s alleged intention to invade Ukraine, he said that Moscow is equally worried about NATO drills […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Man accused of using relief funds on Lamborghini gets prison

HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston man has been sentenced to more than nine years in prison after he was accused of using federal COVID-19 relief funding on a Lamborghini, a Rolex watch and trips to strip clubs, federal prosecutors said. Lee Price III, 30, was sentenced Monday to 110 months in prison. Price pleaded guilty […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Mercedes, Stellantis to work with US firm on new batteries

BERLIN (AP) — Automakers Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis announced agreements with U.S. company Factorial Energy on Tuesday to help develop solid-state battery technology that they hope could make electric cars more attractive to a mass market. Mercedes-Benz, part of Daimler AG, said it is joining forces with Factorial, based in Woburn, Massachussetts, to jointly develop batteries […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

EU set to unveil massive worldwide infrastructure plan

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Wednesday is set to unveil a multibillion-euro plan aimed at bolstering the 27-nation bloc’s worldwide infrastructure and influence. The program is expected to mobilize up to 300 billion euros ($341 billion) in public and private funds by 2027. Although the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, does not […]
1 day ago
FILE - This undated file image provided by Merck & Co. shows their new antiviral medication molnupi...
Associated Press

Final US hurdle for Merck’s COVID-19 pill: FDA panel review

WASHINGTON (AP) — An experimental COVID-19 drug that could soon become the first U.S.-authorized pill to treat the coronavirus faces one final hurdle Tuesday: A panel of government experts will scrutinize data on the medication from drugmaker Merck. The Food and Drug Administration is asking its outside experts whether the agency should authorize the pill, […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
EU unconvinced by Polish arguments on rule of law changes