Top EU official: Poland failed to address EU concerns

AP News
Posted: Aug 31, 2017 8:52 AM
Top EU official: Poland failed to address EU concerns

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland has failed to address European Union concerns about the country's judicial independence and is the only member state "on the verge of moving in the opposite direction" of the bloc's values, a top EU official said Thursday.

Poland's EU-skeptic government is in a standoff with the 28-member bloc, which has strongly criticized it for threatening the country's rule of law with recently proposed laws reorganizing the court system. The changes would put judges under direct control of the ruling party and its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The ruling Law and Justice party, which took office in 2015, argues that the reforms aim to make the courts more efficient and fair. It also insists the changes are an internal matter, outside the authority of EU bodies.

Poland sent a letter Monday dismissing Brussels' concerns as groundless, insisting that its policies are in line with EU rules.

Frans Timmermans, the deputy head of the European Commission, said Poland has not put forward any measures to address the warnings the EU made in a letter sent in July and is drifting away from EU principles.

Speaking to a European Parliament commission, he added that top EU bodies, including the European Council, will analyze Poland's response before any further steps are taken.

He insisted that the EU's aim was to have a "constructive dialogue" with Warsaw, not to impose sanctions or apply Art. 7, which would strip Poland of its EU voting rights.

But Timmermans also said the EU was determined to "use all our tools, all the tools that we have at our disposal as guardians" of EU's fundamental principles of judicial independence and the rule of law.