Polish FM: this is not the EU that Poles voted to join

AP News
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Posted: May 23, 2016 11:38 AM
Polish FM: this is not the EU that Poles voted to join

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's foreign minister on Monday accused the European Union's leaders of taking steps which go beyond the union's rules, but an EU spokesman said negotiations with Warsaw were continuing.

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, speaking in Brussels before the expected release of a critical opinion concerning Poland's rule of law and a constitutional conflict.

Commission spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, suggested the opinion might not be issued on Monday as planned.

"The commission are still talking constructively with the Polish authorities and we hope to find solutions," Schinas said in English in Brussels.

Poland's conservative government, in power since November and making sweeping changes to the state and social life, has taken steps to curb the Constitutional Tribunal, a top court that can act as a check on government's actions. The steps have paralyzed the court and led the EU Commission to implement the "rule of law" procedure that is aimed at protecting EU values including respect for law, democracy and human rights.

The Commission gave Poland until Monday to find a solution and threatened sanctions which could even lead to Poland losing its EU voting rights. The ruling party made some suggestions of a compromise to the EU last week, while opposition leaders are planning to meet among themselves on Tuesday, in feeble signs of progress to end the constitutional crisis.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda said there is a dialogue between the government and the opposition and he believes the issue will be solved by the parliament.

"I hope that with some pressure from European institutions the conflict will be solved," Duda said while on a visit to Oslo, Norway.

The Venice Commission, an EU body, has recommended that the solution should be negotiated among parties, in Poland's parliament.

Before the election of the current right-wing government, Poland had been one of the EU's most enthusiastic members.

Waszczykowski said that threatening sanctions goes beyond the EU's fundamental treaties and should not be applied.

"This is not the union, not the kind of membership that we have agreed to, this is not the kind of referendum that the Poles took part in," he said.

Last week, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said Poland will not bow to EU's "ultimatum," and the lawmakers adopted a resolution calling on the government to "counter any action taken against Poland's sovereignty."

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Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed