Jnews is about news!

Poland goes from zero to hero in EU thanks to Ukraine effort – POLITICO

WARSAW – Poland has gone straight from being the EU bad boy to star pupil thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

For the first time in years, Poland is getting some positive press.

Huge numbers of ordinary Poles have responded with astonishing generosity to the more than 500,000 Ukrainian refugees pouring across their eastern border – sending relief aid and opening their homes to thousands of people. As a nation scarred by centuries of Russian aggression, Poland has also become the main staging point for sending a flood of anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets, rifles, ammunition, weapons, armor and other war supplies to the battling Ukrainians.

Poland’s rare moment as the good guy is sparking hopes in Warsaw that the European Commission will let bygones be bygones and give the country a pass on accusations it’s violated the bloc’s rule of law principles and will release billions in delayed EU funds.

“The [European Commission] should immediately cease any sanctions against Poland, ”said Patryk Jaki, a member of the European Parliament from Poland’s nationalist United Right ruling coalition.

To a degree, some of the mood music is changing to Warsaw’s advantage. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki – who is more used to getting brickbats from EU officials over his country’s democratic backsliding – can now bask in unexpected praise from Charles Michel, the European Council president.

“I would like to commend you, dear Prime Minister Mateusz, your team, and the Polish people,” Michel said Wednesday when visiting the eastern Polish city of Rzeszów.

But the odor of Poland’s seven years of often brutal confrontations with the EU still lingers.

On Wednesday, the European Commission issued a communication spelling out rules where “breaches of the principles of the rule of law in a Member State affect or seriously risk affecting the sound financial management of the Union budget.” That’s an instrument aimed at backsliding countries like Poland and Hungary, tying their performance on rule of law to access EU cash.

The Commission also has not unlocked € 36 billion in grants and loans to Poland under its pandemic relief program. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they would be unlocked once Poland dismantles its contested disciplinary chamber for judges – which was ruled illegal by the EU top court in July – as well as “end or reform” a disciplinary regime for judges and begin a process for reinstating those who have been sacked.

Polish President Andrzej Duda last month proposed a half-measure that dissolves the disciplinary chamber, but does not tackle other rule of law headaches. But getting the bill through parliament is blocked by dissent within the United Right and the unwillingness of the opposition to vote for Duda’s measure.

All those scraps, though, now seem pretty small in light of the war happening next door.

Reaching out

“The war is changing calculations,” said Jakub Jaraczewski, a research coordinator at Democracy Reporting International, a non-governmental organization. “There is a very strong feeling in Poland that we need to overcome political differences and stand against the external threat. When we have an external war, we do not need an internal one. ”

Many saw the need for unity given the scale of the crisis.

Szymon Hołownia, leader of the centrist opposition Poland 2050 grouping, called for a “speedy resolution of the disciplinary chamber issue, a speedy resolution of rule of law so that the open front against Brussels is finally closed.”

Donald Tusk, leader of the opposition Civic Platform party and a former prime minister and European Council president, called for national unity after the invasion but also demanded “a return of rule of law in Poland.”

“Repairing the situation around the judiciary in Poland is a necessary condition for strengthening Poland in relation to our allies both in the EU and in the USA, and the conflict over this issue weakens us,” he said in an open letter, adding his party would work with the government to help them get out of the “trap” of the dispute with Brussels.

But he’s come under fierce attack from government supporters after his European People’s Party, the largest grouping in the European Parliament, backed a motion calling on the Commission to “immediately and retrospectively” apply rule of law conditionality.

“Do you allow further attacks on Poland while Poland is acting to resist Russian aggression?” tweeted Beata Szydło, an MEP and a former prime minister from the Law and Justice party.

Despite the calls to end the dispute, Duda and the government are dodging and weaving on throwing in the towel on their long-running effort to bring the courts under tighter political control.

They are giving way on other contentious issues. Duda on Wednesday vetoed a controversial education law aimed at “protecting children from moral corruption” that would have allowed the highly ideological education minister, who is a fervent opponent of LGBTQ + rights, more control over the school system. “We do not need more conflicts,” Duda said.

But that’s not stopping growing concern over Poland’s slide in democratic standards.

A report issued Wednesday by the V-Dem Institute, a democracy NGO, found that Poland was one of the world’s top “autocractizing” countries.

“Benin, El Salvador, Mali, Mauritius, and Poland qualify as top autocratizers in both the long-term and short-term windows,” it says.

That’s going to make it even more difficult for the European Commission to forget Poland’s past transgressions, no matter the scale of its current effort to help Ukraine.

“The Commission is under pressure to help Poland, but also not to let Poland off the hook over rule of law,” said Jaraczewski.

Zosia Wanat contributed reporting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *