The World Today for August 13, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

POLAND

Problem Child

From the headlines, one would think Poland is at war with the European Union.

The Central European country is “fighting” bureaucrats in Brussels. Local pundits call on the EU to be “tougher.” Newspapers described the 27-nation bloc, the most important conglomeration of democracies in the world and one of the globe’s largest economies, as using money as a “weapon.”

In fact, there is no hot conflict. Instead, Poland and the EU are in a kind of cold struggle over whether the EU can uphold (or dictate, depending on one’s view) legal standards in the country despite the opposition of its elected conservative government, which itself is fracturing, Bloomberg reported.

“The evolution of these disputes is relevant for the future of the European Union because pervasive nationalist sentiments in Europe mean that the prospect of additional countries moving away from the idea of pan-European federalism and resorting to sovereignist positions is a real possibility,” wrote Stratfor, a US-based think tank.

Writing in the Financial Times, columnist Tony Barber argued that the EU was correct to say that Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the nationalist Law and Justice Party have undermined the independence of the country’s judiciary and flouted the principle that the European Court of Justice is the bloc’s supreme judicial authority, giving the single market a unified rule of law that is vital to commerce.

The Law and Justice Party has concentrated its power over the judiciary and judge appointments since gaining power in 2015. The European Court of Justice, for example, recently ordered Poland to close a “disciplinary panel” that critics said helps government officials control judges, the New York Times explained. Officials have resisted disbanding the court, although this week, they showed signs of compromise. Around 3,500 Polish judges and prosecutors have called on the Polish government to comply, the EUObserver wrote.

The EU has already begun withholding funds from Poland because of the government’s insistence that, as a sovereign nation, it can flout rules that it embraced when it joined the EU in 2004 to avoid backsliding to the authoritarianism and suppression of civil rights that Poles experienced under communism in the 20th century, the Wall Street Journal added.

Morawiecki wants to find “some kind of accord” with the EU to avoid costly punishments, the Associated Press reported.

But whether or not the EU can tolerate the kind of ideological diversity that would allow conservative governments like Poland’s – and Hungary’s, too – to remain in the bloc is an open question, wrote the Spectator, a British magazine.

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