EU vs. Poland: what now?

The dispute over Poland's rule of law came to a head in Strasbourg last Tuesday: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to block the Covid recovery aid requested by Warsaw until the country rescinds its contested judicial reforms. Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused the EU of blackmail, but at the end of the week held talks with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.

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France Inter (FR) /

Poor cards for Warsaw

Brussels has the advantage, comments Pierre Haski, columnist for France Inter:

“This is a club like no other in the world in which the most burning issues are settled between empty threats and discreet negotiations. In the end there will be no Polexit because that is not what the Poles want, and the populist government in Warsaw does not currently have the means to change the EU from within. What's more, Poland has a cheque for 57 billion euros from the recovery fund, pending resolution of the dispute. That may be 'blackmail', but flouting community rules wasn't very correct either. In the showdown, Poland really does not have a good hand this time.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Brussels' double standards

National laws have been put above EU laws in other EU member states, The Daily Telegraph criticises:

“Most notably, Germany's constitutional court has always reserved the right to nullify EU activities if it doesn't like them and has done so repeatedly, most recently last year when it stated that the European Central Bank's quantitative easing programme is illegal. The main difference is that Berlin has always opted not to act on its domestic court's judgments. So Poland can justifiably complain that it is being singled out for unfair treatment.”

Berlingske (DK) /

They want to destroy the EU

For Berlingske the fact that Poland's anti-Brussels course is also popular among Danish EU sceptics like the Dansk Folkeparti does not bode well:

“The depressing thing is that the politicians of the Danish People's Party have not realised what Warsaw is doing. Does the party really support Poland's chosen course? To be critical of the EU and to demand that Denmark leave the EU - that is completely legitimate. But to systematically undermine the rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of minorities? That's what the Polish government stands for ... To support Poland's reasoning is to legalise violations of the law and to continue the suppression of democratic rights by trying to destroy international institutions.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Worlds apart

The debate in the EU Parliament shows how far apart the two sides are, Rzeczpospolita notes:

“In the version put forward by Prime Minister Morawiecki, Poland is a victim of the double standards of EU commissioners, ECJ judges and their abuse of the treaties. The ruling of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal merely reminds us that the Republic of Poland is a sovereign state. But there is also the world represented by the head of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen. ... Her speech on the rule of law did not correspond at any point to what Morawiecki said after her. And that will continue to be the case in the future. Because today the Polish prime minister, the EU Commission and the majority in the EU Parliament have a completely different understanding both of European values and of their own strategic goals.”

La Stampa (IT) /

EU has the upper hand

After years of dithering Brussels is finally showing its teeth, La Stampa comments with delight:

“The evening before the European Council meets, the Commission is proposing three solutions: a legal one, involving proceedings against Warsaw; an economic one, tying the paying out of the 36 billion euros earmarked for Poland in the European recovery programme to certain conditions; and a political one, suspending voting rights. These three paths are not mutually exclusive. ... However complex the process, in the fight against Polish authoritarianism the EU has the upper hand.”

Der Spiegel (DE) /

Polexit would be worse than Brexit

The EU must do everything in its power to prevent Poland from leaving, Der Spiegel stresses:

“Because without Poland, European unification is incomplete. European integration was never intended to be a purely Western European project. It was supposed to help overcome the division of the continent. The goal was to integrate the Central and Eastern European states into a free and democratic Europe after the dissolution of the power blocs. ... The impact of Poland's exit of the European Union would be quite different from that of Brexit. Historically, Britain has always seen itself on the fringes of the European playing field. Poland has always been right in the middle. If Poland leaves, the whole EU will start to crumble.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

PiS benefits from the dispute

Tygodnik Powszechny looks at the domestic dimensions of the discord:

“Shifting the political dispute in Poland to EU membership could even be advantageous for those in power. If only because most of society sees our membership in the EU as irrevocable and will only shrug their shoulders at any talk of leaving. Especially if the government camp finally succeeds in releasing funds from the EU recovery programme. The opposition will then be left looking like someone who raises the alarm for no reason. Moreover, its fixation on this issue could obscure its view of problems such as rising prices for food, services, electricity, gas and petrol.”