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Warsaw rejects the European Commission’s ultimatum

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Warsaw rejects the European Commission’s ultimatum, by Olivier Bault.

Poland, Warsaw – On Wednesday, the European Commission issued an ultimatum to the Polish conservative government, and gave it until Monday to make proposals on the settlement of its conflict with its Constitutional Court. The timing is rather surprising, because discussions between the PiS in power and a part of the opposition had just led to new proposals. Thus the European Commission doesn’t seem to wish a compromise because it sided with the liberal opposition close to the President of the European Council Donald Tusk. That is on the side of those who exercised the power until October, 2015 and who cause the current constitutional crisis in Poland.

The parliamentary majority elected on October 25th, 2015 consider it as an unbearable intervention from Brussels and they accuse the Commission of aggravating a conflict which cannot be resolved but by virtue of a political agreement between Poles. Coming to an agreement is difficult because the two biggest opposition parties – the Civic Platform (PO) and Nowoczesna – count on Brussels to make give up the conservative majority and thus refuse any compromise. On Friday, the Polish Diet voted for a resolution to support the action of the PiS government and to order it to stand firm for the Polish sovereignty.

The European Commission’s attitude is even more difficult to understand when the procedure of penalty for non-compliance with the Rule of law which it threatens to engage has nearly no chance to succeed. Indeed it requires the unanimity of all other member states in the European Council. A unanimity impossible to obtain, while Hungary has already let know that she would vote against and it’s hard to imagine the other countries of the Visegrád group to vote in favour of penalties against Poland.

Viktor Orbán – of whom the country went out victorious of many years of attacks from the Brussels institutions – declared on Friday on the radio that Brussels would never win this battle against Poland. He qualified the position of the European Commission as inequitable and called Brussels to show more respect towards the Poles. Hungarian Prime Minister also declared to refuse the diktats from Brussels bureaucrats which act against the will of the European nations today.

For his part Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski was surprised by the attitude of Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission in charge of the Improvement of the legislation, inter-institutional Relations, Rule of law and the Charter of the Fundamental Rights. Timmermans is accused by Waszczykowski to have expressed on Tuesday, on a phone conversation with Prime Minister Beata Szydło, his satisfaction after the proposals of compromise moved forward by the PiS, before asking the day after for the European Commission to give an ultimatum to Poland.

Translated from French by the Visegrád Post.