Poland to Announce Cabinet Revamp as Fight With EU Deepens

Updated on
  • Five to 10 ministers to be replaced in ‘deep reshuffle’
  • Changes coincide with premier’s meeting with EU’s Juncker

Poland’s prime minister will announce a "deep reshuffle" of his administration on Tuesday before he meets the head of the European Commission to discuss a judicial overhaul that has triggered the threat of EU sanctions over democratic backsliding.

Premier Mateusz Morawiecki will name five to 10 new ministers, two prominent politicians from the ruling Law & Justice party said Monday, without giving details. The list includes as many as eight who could lose posts and two new names for the finance and development portfolios, which Morawiecki is expected to reassign after being promoted from those spots last month.

The premier will announce the new lineup at a news conference at around noon on Tuesday, Cabinet spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska told reporters in Warsaw.

News of the shuffle comes before Morawiecki travels to Brussels to meet commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Tuesday evening. The commission called on national governments in December to start the unprecedented process of sanctioning a member state that could lead to stripping the country of its voting rights. The decision is a shot across the bow for governments such as Hungary’s, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called for rolling back the liberal framework underpinning the world’s largest trading club.

Halfway into its four-year term, Law & Justice enjoys record support of as much as 50 percent among voters, according to opinion polls. It may now be trying to pivot to a softer approach that eases away from its collision course with the EU as it seeks to avoid loosing centrist voters it attract in its 2015 election victory, said Olgierd Annusewicz, a political scientist at Warsaw University.

While a backing off from the judicial overhaul is unlikely -- as President Andrzej Duda has already signed into effect the laws disputed by the EU -- some replacements may improve ties. One example would be Environment Minister Jan Szyszko, who has clashed with the EU over the logging that threatens protected species and habitats the Bialowieza forest -- one of Europe’s oldest -- and triggered a court case against the ex-communist country of 38 million people.

“We have to wait for the results of the shuffle to tell, but clearly fighting on so many fronts will sooner or later imply political losses for the ruling party,” Annusewicz said by phone. “If we see a replacement of the environment minister by someone who declares respect for rulings of the EU, that would definitely allow for a new opening with Brussels."

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