EU Commission launches proceedings against Poland

For the first time in its history the EU Commission has triggered Article 7 of the EU treaties and initiated sanction proceedings against a member state. It accuses the government in Warsaw of undermining the independence of the judiciary and the values of the European Union. Is the step justified?

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Polityka (PL) /

Utter contempt for the EU

Polish President Andrzej Duda's behaviour following the news of the EU's decision leaves no doubts about his stance, Polityka comments:

“The EU announced that it would trigger proceedings against Poland under Article 7 of the EU treaty. President Duda immediately announced in a hastily arranged appearance that he would sign the laws on the National Council of the Judiciary and the Supreme Court. ... These are the very laws to which the EU objects to such an extent that it has now taken the penultimate step before withdrawing Poland's voting rights. The fact that Duda's announcement to sign both laws came right after the EU's decision, as declared by Commission Vice President [Frans Timmermans], is a clear demonstration of his contempt for the Commission, the EU and its laws.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

A high price for self-imposed isolation

It's not only its stance on European values that is creating problems for Poland, Lidové noviny believes:

“Warsaw will perhaps pay now for the fact that it fought out internal conflicts at the EU level. For example by rejecting an extension of Donald Tusk's presidency of the Council of the European Union. Or with its demands for reparations from Germany. The Hungarian Orbán, who is similar to Kaczyński in many other respects, doesn't have these problems and maintains good relations with Austria and Bavaria. ... Will the Visegrád states show solidarity with Poland? Hungary is talking of a veto, Slovakia remains silent and the Czech Republic is waiting things out. Whenever the topic isn't migration the Visegrád fortress begins to totter.”

PestiSrácok (HU) /

Brussels wants to make an example of Poland

The EU's actions are an affront to Polish voters, journalist Gyula Máté T. writes on the pro-government blog website PestiSrá

“The sole purpose is to make an example of Poland so that no one will oppose the will of Brussels and Berlin. And if they do they'll be in for the 'nuclear option'! Hungary, Czech Republic, beware! ... The conservative government told the Poles the plain truth from the start and was clear about its plans as early as the 2015 election campaign. And the Poles voted it in! Brussels now wants to override the will of the Poles and limit the sovereignty of a government that was democratically elected in a free vote! ... Brussels' strategy is: bash Poland so others will get the picture!”

Ziare (RO) /

Romania facing the same fate as Poland

The EU Commission could also impose sanctions on Romania for its controversial judicial reform, journalist Ioana Ene Dogioiu writes in Ziare:

“In that case Romania would be in for an economic nightmare. ... If the EU wanted to make an example of a country, in my view not Poland but Romania would be the ideal candidate. Romania is extremely vulnerable economically, it has no economic clout in the EU, it doesn't have the euro and it's not part of the Schengen Area. ... Of course, the representatives of the social-liberal PSD-Alde coalition don't think about such arguments. ... Nevertheless we should ask ourselves whether we are willing to pay such a price just so that the mafia can get away with stealing as much as it wants.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

No alternative to sanctions

For Handelsblatt the EU's hard line is fully justified even if the infringement proceedings have their weaknesses:

“It will neither prompt the narrow-minded Kaczyński to mend his ways, nor can it be fully implemented. If the Polish government remains stubborn the EU could in theory suspend its voting rights in the EU Council of Ministers. That, however, would require the unanimous approval of all EU states, something that Hungary would never go along with. ... Nevertheless the Commission has done the right thing. The PiS is in the process of dismantling democracy. No EU citizen can remain indifferent to that. And nor can the business world, because legal security and freedom are also a precious asset for investors. Tens of thousands of Poles have demonstrated against the government's judicial reform. The EU is on their side.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Hopefully more than just a bluff!

Gazeta Wyborcza warns that the EU must make good on its threats if necessary:

“The moment of great battle Jarosław Kaczyński has been dreaming of has now arrived - it's him against the whole EU. ... Let us hope the European Union isn't just bluffing. Because if it isn't able to react quickly and appropriately to the decisions made by the government in Poland, the advocates of Polish democracy will next year lose not just their faith in an independent judiciary but also in the seriousness, authority and political instincts of the EU leaders.”

L'Echo (BE) /

Brussels' double standards

If the EU Commission wants to counteract the decline of democracy in Europe it should make sure that it treats all EU member states equally, L'Echo admonishes:

“The Juncker Commission's decision isolates Poland. Nevertheless it's not enough, because Poland isn't the only country in Europe that is moving in a worrying direction. What's more, it's difficult to understand why the European executive is so tough on Warsaw while it allows elected representatives to be imprisoned in Spain and congratulates an Austrian party that has joined forces with neo-Nazis. It serves no purpose to make an example of one country yet allow others to desecrate the values of Mother Europe.”

Biziday (RO) /

Division of EU just a matter of time

A two-speed Europe will be the final outcome of the developments in countries like Poland and Hungary, business journalist Moise Guran writes in his blog Biziday:

“How much longer do you think the countries of Western Europe, which contribute through EU funds to the development of the Eastern European countries, will allow states like Poland and Hungary to treat them like fools? No doubt it will be a few years yet, but the division of the EU is coming. The community will be divided up into a federation on the one side (which mirrors more or less the borders of the current Eurozone) and an eastern group on the other, with which a free trade agreement will perhaps exist.”