Poland to Snub EU as Kaczynski Derides Rule of Law Investigation

Poland will probably ignore a Wednesday deadline to respond to a European Union probe into the state of its democracy, as the head of the ruling Law & Justice party said his country didn’t have to cooperate.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski set the stage for a showdown with the European Commission, which set Wednesday as the last day Poland had to respond to a June 1 assessment telling the country to restore the ability of Poland’s highest court to effectively review or overturn laws. The government probably won’t deliver a response today, spokesman Rafal Bochenek said.

“The EU proceedings are arbitrary and groundless,” Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice and the power behind the throne of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s government, told reporters in Krakow on Wednesday. “Adhering to them has been a gesture of good will on our part, but we don’t have to do it.”

The dispute with the EU, triggered after Law & Justice overhauled the Constitutional Tribunal in December, has grown into the worst standoff between Poland and the EU since the ex-communist country joined the bloc in 2004. It has weighed on Polish assets and helped prompt the country’s first-ever credit downgrade, by S&P Global ratings, this year. The probe, in a worst-case scenario, may lead toward potential sanctions against the country of 38 million people.

For a story on EU warning of Poland’s ‘dark side,’ click here
For story on the European Commission’s assessment of Poland, click here

Poland’s parliament began debating laws to again change operations at the court last week. Among the bills was one drafted by Law & Justice that doesn’t address EU concerns including the government’s failure to implement a ruling by the tribunal that struck down the changes made by Law & Justice and President Andrzej Duda’s refusal to swear in three justices picked by the previous parliament.

“I wouldn’t expect a Polish response today” Bochenek told Bloomberg. “Our response should be linked to parliamentary work on new legislative proposals on the top court. Once those results are tangible, we will inform the commission.” 

The overhaul of the top court was condemned as endangering democracy by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission in March. Recent changes to Poland’s legal and institutional framework, including the paralysis of the constitutional tribunal, threaten human rights and undermine the rule of law, the council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, said in report.

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