terça-feira, 19 de janeiro de 2016
Polish PM to MEPs: ‘Nothing bad is happening’
Polish PM to MEPs: ‘Nothing bad is happening’
Poland goes from EU star to problem child.
By MAÏA DE LA BAUME 1/19/16, 9:22 PM CET Updated 1/20/16, 5:48 AM CET
STRASBOURG — Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło gave no ground to the critics of her government at a debate on the state of Poland’s democracy at the European Parliament Tuesday, saying: “There has been no violation of the constitution.”
Szydło insisted the controversial changes being pushed through by the Law and Justice party government aren’t putting her country beyond the pale of the European Union.
“I see no reason to devote so much time to Polish affairs,” she said.
Her administration has come under fire for major changes to the highest constitutional court and for bringing state media under tighter government control.
Although Szydło was careful to stress that Poland sees itself as being at the core of the EU, there was widespread concern about her government’s actions.
“We risk seeing the emergence of a systemic threat to the rule of law,” said Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s first vice president, explaining why the Commission last week launched a probe into whether Poland is breaking the bloc’s democratic principles, the first time such powers have been used.
But once the debate got going, the tone was much more measured than recent tit-for-tat comments flying between Warsaw and Brussels.
In recent weeks Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, warned of a “coup” in Warsaw and that Poland was heading along a path marked out by Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Polish ministers responded by invoking German wartime atrocities.
At Tuesday’s debate, both sides tried to soothe tensions that could damage relations with one of the bloc’s core members.
There was such an effort not to offend the Poles that the first address from the European People’s Party, the Parliament’s largest grouping, came not from its German leader Manfred Weber, but from Spaniard Esteban González Pons.
“We should clarify whether there is a possibility that in Poland some European values are at risk,” he said.
Szydło insisted that changes to the Constitutional Tribunal, and the dispute over which judges should sit on it, simply make the tribunal more “balanced.”
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal MEPs, made the spikiest comments, wagging his finger at Szydło and warning that the Law and Justice government’s actions were helping Putin by undermining European unity.
He accused her government of using its absolute majorority in Poland’s parliament “to dismantle the system of checks and balances, which is the core of European democracy.”
EUROPEAN CONSERVATIVES AND REFORMISTS GROUP
The mainstream Polish opposition, which has joined in with large street protests against Law and Justice in recent weeks, broadly sat out the debate, leaving most of the work in the hands of non-Polish MEPs.
However, Róża Thun, a Polish member of the European People’s Party and of Civic Platform, which was defeated by Law and Justice in the national election, said: “The prime minister went into technicalities that nobody understood. These were empty words. The Polish government was applauded only by Euroskeptic parties and that is very bad.”
Small groups of demonstrators — both for and against the government — gathered in front of the Parliament building in Strasbourg, a sign of the emotions that the debate is stirring in Poland.
Nothing to see here
Despite the politely expressed concern from MEPs that the bloc’s sixth largest member is undermining the institutions that are part of a properly functioning democratic state, Szydło stuck with her contention that nothing unusual is happening in Poland.
She insisted that changes to the Constitutional Tribunal, and the dispute over which judges should sit on it, simply make the tribunal more “balanced.”
“Nothing bad is happening,” she said.
She also rejected criticism of the media law, which allows the treasury ministry to fire the chiefs of public radio and television and replace them. The new head of public television is a former Law and Justice politician who is purging journalists from the network’s news shows.
“The media needed these changes, which bring in standards of neutrality and reliability. That’s the only aim,” she said.
Szydło tried to reframe the criticism aimed at actions being taken by her party as a disapproval of Poland itself — an attempt to link EU worries over democratic norms to past historical aggression against Poland by outsiders.
“Our history taught us that our Polish affairs should be resolved in our Polish house. Whenever outsiders did that for us, we came out of it very badly,” she said.
Still, the spectacle of Poland’s prime minister having to spend hours in the European Parliament fending off questions over her government’s respect for democratic standards showed just how much the country’s status has changed since Law and Justice came to power in late October.
Until recently Poland was a star of the ex-Communist east, with the fastest growing economy of any EU country over the past decade and with an increasingly powerful position in the EU.
“This is a pretty sad day for Poland,” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and Polish prime minister from 2007-2014, said after the debate.
Maïa de La Baume