WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's prime minister said Thursday she doesn't believe the European Union will impose sanctions on the country over its new laws that have been criticized as running counter to the bloc's principle of the rule of law.
In what came as a surprise to Polish leaders, the EU on Wednesday decided to carry out a preliminary assessment of new Polish laws affecting the country's constitutional court and state media. It's the first step in a drawn-out procedure that could ultimately lead to suspending Polish voting rights in the 28-nation bloc. It would be the first such case ever.
Premier Beata Szydlo said Thursday she doesn't believe the EU could imposes sanctions on Poland because the "European Commission cannot punish anyone." But she said the bloc could suggest steps that Poland should take.
Szydlo told TVN24 that "I am not saying that we made no mistakes, or that some things could not have been done in a different way."
In December, Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, which took power in November and has a parliamentary majority, took steps to gain influence in the constitutional tribunal, which is supposed to be an independent arbiter with the power to block government legislation, but is currently dominated by judges linked to the opposition. Critics said the ruling party's steps threatened democracy.
In addition, Poland's president signed a law last week that heads toward giving the government full control of state radio and television, a move that critics see as undermining free speech.
Szydlo insisted that the recent steps taken by the government and lawmakers were made with full respect for the rule of law. She spoke to European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Thursday and both agreed they want the matter resolved as soon as possible, said Rafal Bochenek, spokesman for Poland's government.
The European Parliament will debate Poland on Jan. 20, and Szydlo said she will take an active part in the session.