Dispatches

In the face of Polish defiance, E.U. stands firm

Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki (far left) remained defiant, while other leaders were critical of Warsaw's decision to challenge E.U. law.
Deutsche Welle 22 October 2021 13:43 IST
Updated: 22 October 2021 14:07 IST

Warsaw and Brussels seem no closer to resolving the issue over Poland's challenge to E.U. law.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hit back at the E.U.'s criticism of Warsaw, reiterating he would not bow to "blackmail" while leaving the door slightly ajar for "dialogue" as he joined a summit of the bloc's 27 member states on October 21. Poland was heavily criticized at the meeting over its decision to challenge "the legal bedrock of our Union," European Parliament President David Sassoli said, adding "never before has the Union been called into question so radically."

But this drew a sharp response from Morawiecki, who was keen to preserve Polish sovereignty, as he said: "Some European institutions assume the right to decide on matters that have not been assigned to them." "We will not act under the pressure of blackmail... but we will of course talk about how to resolve the current disputes in dialogue."

What is the division about?

The issue at stake is a ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal earlier this month stating that some elements of E.U. law were not in accordance with the country's constitution. The ruling brings to a head differences between Poland and the bloc over several principles of democracy, such as judicial independence, freedom of media, women's rights, migrants and the rights of LGBTQ people.

Poland gets Hungary support, while others lash out

A common Polish ally at October 21's meeting emerged in the shape of Hungary. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants to return powers to national capitals and has lashed out at what it believes are excessive powers of the European Commission. "Poland is one of the best European countries. There is no need for any sanctions, it's ridiculous," Orban said.

The European Commission has, for the time being, barred Poland from accessing the €36 billion ($42 billion) of grants and loans it requested from E.U. funds to help its economy bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic. "If you want to have the advantages of being in a club... then you need to respect the rules," Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said. "You can't be a member of a club and say 'The rules don't apply to me'."

Leaders of a number of E.U. countries, including Ireland and France, urged Poland to come back in line. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, referring to Warsaw's judicial overhaul that puts its courts under more government control, said it was difficult to see how new E.U. funding could be channeled to Poland. "We have to be tough," he said.

Merkel calls for calm

While many have grown increasingly frustrated at failed attempts to convince Warsaw to change tack, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against isolating Poland. "We have to find ways of coming back together," she said, adding that bringing multiple cases against Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union was no solution.

No 'Polexit'

Morawiecki has dismissed the idea of following in the footsteps of the U.K. by leaving the bloc, ruling out the possibility of a "Polexit." Support for E.U. membership remains high in Poland, with some 88 per cent of Poles keen to remain in the 27-member bloc.

jsi (AP, Reuters)

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