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    Polish PM believes that the EU will change after May 2019 elections

    An interview given by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for the Financial Times is stirring up emotions in Poland. In the interview, the Prime Minister states that the European Parliament election in May will have strong impact on the EU and that the European Commission needs to be much more receptive to what’s going on in particular member states.
    The Polish liberal opposition has earlier adopted a tactic of accusing the conservative government of, willing or unwillingly, putting Poland on the path to leave the European Union. It views Morawiecki’s criticism of the European Commission in the interview as a confirmation of its claims. The government has dissmissed the accusation that it’s steering Poland in the direction of a “Polexit”. The ruling Law & Justice Party claims that under its rule, Poland is committed to the EU even though it shares the opinion of many other nations that the EU needs reform and that member states should have more to say.

    In the interview, Morawiecki called on the European Commission to drop its Article 7 proceeding against Warsaw. The Commission has claimed that the rule of law is threatened in Poland following a number of judicial reforms conducted by the Polish government. Through the use of Article 7, the Commission wants Warsaw to back down from the reforms or face political sanctions. An initiative to strip Poland from its right to vote in the EU would require an unanimous decision taken by all 27 members states in European Council which is highly unlikely.

    Morawiecki has earlier stated that politicians from Western Europe have a hard time understanding the reality that people in Central Eastern Europe experience on a daily basis as Western Europeans have no experience of having lived under communist oppression. He has likened the Polish judicial reform, meant to clean up the judiciary from influence of the old communist system, with the reforms and personnel replacements initiated in East Germany after 1989 as well as in France and Norway once Nazi German occupation had ended.

    Prime Minister Morawiecki also pointed to the double standards employed by Western European countries  in their dealings with countries in Central Eastern Europe by bringing up the way the French police treats the “gilets jaunes” protesters.

    “When I look at what is happening in France, I wouldn’t say that France has an issue with the rule of law, but can you imagine if those brutal interventions would happen against demonstrators in Poland how loud the voices would be in Brussels, in Berlin or . . . maybe even Paris?” Prime Minister Morawiecki said.

    Morawiecki seems to have good reasons for his stance as the EU took interest when it accused Romania of police brutality after riot police had clashed with protesters in Bucharest in the fall of 2018 while ignoring the violent clampdown against protesters in Paris or Catalonia.

    Apart from launching Article 7 against Poland for its reforms in the judiciary, the European Commission also took Warsaw to the European Court of Justice. The judges in Luxembourg used an injunction against the Polish judiciary reform, forcing Warsaw to reinstate the judges which had been retired by the new Polish legislation. Since Poland has followed the decision by the ECJ, Morawiecki argues that the Commission now should drop the Article 7 proceedings against Poland, or else it will become obvious that the Commission is using the case as political tool against the Polish governement ahead of the May 2019 elections to the European Parliament.

    “Now is the turn of the European Commission,” Mr Morawiecki said. “If they want to be an honest broker, because I don’t feel so far that they are an honest broker . . . they should really take decisive positive steps to clarify all these issues they have, because now we have done so much”.

    Morawiecki’s hopes that the next European Parliament and European Commission will treat Poland and other Central European states differently after the election in May are well-grounded. Opinion polls show that the ruling Law & Justice are likely to win the election to the European Parliament in Poland while eurosceptic parties such as Fidesz in Hungary, Lega in Italy and National Rally (previously Front National) are poised to do the same in their respective countries.

    It’s quite possible that their electoral surge will force Brussels to rethink the role that member states will play in the EU in the future.

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