EU warns Poland over rule of law, threatens action next week

AP News
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Posted: May 18, 2016 11:12 AM
EU warns Poland over rule of law, threatens action next week

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union expressed concern Wednesday about the rule of law in Poland and warned that it will take action by next week unless Warsaw makes progress on fixing the problem.

The EU's executive Commission has been holding informal talks with Warsaw since November amid concerns about the conservative government's respect for Poland's Constitutional Court and the way judges are appointed.

The Commission said if the tribunal "is prevented from fully ensuring an effective constitutional review, there can be no effective scrutiny of compliance with fundamental rights of legislative acts."

Warsaw has until Monday to respond. If it does not do so satisfactorily, the Commission could take action under the "rule of law framework," which is aimed at protecting EU values like the rule of law, democracy, equality and the respect of human rights.

The Commission, which enforces the EU's treaties, could then recommend ways that Poland fix the problem and set a deadline. It could even impose sanctions. The whole process could lead to Poland losing its EU voting rights.

Poland has come under strong international criticism since the conservative Law and Justice took power in November and moved to exert its influence over the Constitutional Tribunal and public broadcasters. Critics say both moves undermine the tenets of Western democracy.

But while Poland's ruling party and opposition leaders are holding meetings this week trying to find a solution, Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said Poland needs "much more time" to solve the crisis and no breakthrough should be expected by Monday.

He said he does not see the warning as an ultimatum, adding that Warsaw is in constant "friendly" discussion with the Commission.

The Commission warning came as Poland's prime minister sought an apology from former U.S. President Bill Clinton for having said that Poles think "democracy is too much trouble" and that they appear to prefer authoritarian leadership.

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Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed.