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Polish foreign minister says EU in 'pointless' conflict with Warsaw

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 23.01.2016 11:38
Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski has argued in an article published in leading dailies across Europe that the EU has launched "an utterly pointless conflict with Warsaw."
Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski (R) while in Edinburgh this week. Photo: PAP/Leszek SzymańskiForeign Minister Witold Waszczykowski (R) while in Edinburgh this week. Photo: PAP/Leszek Szymański

Waszczykowski's claims follow the opening of an inquiry by the European Commission this month concerning the rule of law in Poland, as well as Prime Minister Beata Szydło's defence of the Law and Justice government during a debate at the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The foreign minister lamented that the new government, barely two months in office after winning a convincing democratic mandate, finds itself under fire from European Union institutions and from overexcited media commentators who almost have not paused to consider the facts about our ambitious reform programme.

Rather than tackling the urgent issues facing the continent – the unstable southern frontier of the EU, a belligerent Russia to the east – the EU has embarked on an utterly pointless conflict with Warsaw,” he insisted.

Poland is not a naughty pupil in need of schoolmasterly rebuke; it is European to its very core,” he wrote, arguing that the priority for member states should therefore be to maintain unity within the Union and to strengthen Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Constitutional Tribunal

The foreign minister addressed two of the key issues that alarmed factions in the European Parliament and western media, the reform of the judiciary and public media.

He argued that our attempt to overhaul the Constitutional Tribunal is not an assault on the rule of law,” but an effort to correct deformations rushed through in the dying days of the previous government.”

Both the last government led by the centrist Civic Platform and the current one led by the socially conservative Law and Justice have exposed themselves to criticism on the matter.

In the run-up to the 25 October general election, the Civic Platform dominated parliament appointed five new judges. The Constitutional Tribunal later ruled that two of the appointments were premature.

The Law and Justice led parliament later passed an amendment allowing for the nomination of five judges, all duly sworn in by President Andrzej Duda. The president has declined to swear in any of the five Civic Platform judges.

Opposition leader Ryszard Petru of the Nowoczesna party argued this week that the issue at stake “is not about who appoints [the judges], rather it's important that the institution is independent.”

Waszczykowski says that “a political compromise is needed but external pressure from Brussels only makes it harder for us to find a domestic understanding.”

Public media

Over the Christmas period, Parliament passed an amendment to the law on public media, which among other matters, allowed the treasury minister to fire heads of public media branches.

“There is a clear aim: to introduce legislation that restores a sense of mission within public media while simultaneously guaranteeing pluralism, independence and objectivity," Waszczykowski claimed.

This month, Law and Justice appointed one of its own deputy ministers of culture, Jacek Kurski, as head of national broadcaster TVP, while also replacing the heads of Polish Radio and the Polish Press Agency, among other figures.

Previously, appointments were made after competitions were held by Poland’s National Broadcasting Council.

“It is not being muzzled,” Waszczykowski said of the council.

The amendments we have moved are aimed at trying to restore the right balance between the national regulator and the public media in order to comply with the standards of the Venice Commission,” he argued.

Meanwhile, anti-government protests are being held on Saturday in over 40 cities and towns across Poland. (nh/pk)

Full text of Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski

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