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Warsaw Polish Government Takes on Brussels Polish Governance

On EU standards, they’re on different ends of the pole.

poles

The Polish government and the leadership of the European Union are, at present, displeased with each other.

Last December, EU warnings aside, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party took over its constitutional tribunal, refusing to seat judges appointed by the previous government and instead putting in place only its own selections. The European Commission then gave the Polish government a late February deadline to implement measures to protect rule of law and the independence of the constitutional court. On Feb. 20, Poland dismissed those concerns and otherwise ignored the deadline. (It is able to do this because Hungary, its illiberal brother in European arms, has promised to block any sanctions against Poland.)

The Polish government and the leadership of the European Union are, at present, displeased with each other.

Last December, EU warnings aside, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party took over its constitutional tribunal, refusing to seat judges appointed by the previous government and instead putting in place only its own selections. The European Commission then gave the Polish government a late February deadline to implement measures to protect rule of law and the independence of the constitutional court. On Feb. 20, Poland dismissed those concerns and otherwise ignored the deadline. (It is able to do this because Hungary, its illiberal brother in European arms, has promised to block any sanctions against Poland.)

But the Law and Justice party (PiS) was not content to openly defy the leadership of the European Union. If certain reports are to be believed, it is also looking to overtake it.

EU member states will vote next week on the reelection of EU Council president — and former Polish prime minister — Donald Tusk. But the current prime minister, Beata Szydlo reportedly made efforts on Monday to rally EU member states around a different Pole — Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a member of the EU parliament.

The current Polish government, which defeated Tusk’s party in 2015 elections, has said it won’t support Tusk’s reelection. And it appears bent on opposing the imposition of EU standards on Poland. This is perhaps both because the Law and Justice Party leadership considers Tusk a political enemy domestically, and also because it wants to remain in the EU without listening to Brussels on Polish affairs — even if those affairs run counter to EU law, like failure to maintain an independent judiciary.

But Law and Justice is not just tussling with Tusk. Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski told the European Commission’s representative in Poland, Marek Prawda, that he is working against Polish interests. Prawda had been Poland’s representative to the European Commission until Law and Justice came in and fired him — and which point the European Commission hired him to represent its interests in Poland.

As Poland is an EU member state, one would think that those interests are compatible. But clearly, with Tusk’s likely reelection less than two weeks away, that is not the case.

Photo credit: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

Tags: EU, Poland