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06/12/2016

US senators urge Poland to respect democracy, rule of law

Central Europe

US senators urge Poland to respect democracy, rule of law

Concerned about Poland: Senator John McCain.

Poland should recommit to the respect for democracy, human rights, and rule of law, three US senators said in a letter sent to the prime minister, referring to new laws on media and the constitutional court.

Poland’s ruling party, the conservative and Eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS), has packed the constitutional court with its appointees and changed the court’s voting system, curbing its ability to censure legislation.

It has also passed a law giving the government direct control over the appointment of public media chiefs.

This has already raised concern in the European Commission, which began an unprecedented inquiry into whether Poland’s new government, which won an outright majority in October, has breached the EU’s democratic standards.

Three US senators — Ben Cardin, John McCain and Richard J. Durbin — said in their letter to Beata Szydlo dated on 10 February that they were concerned about the actions taken.

Poland's new right-wing government shakes up public media

Within a few short weeks, Poland’s public media have become more combative, more Eurosceptic and more favourably disposed to the authorities, amid a purge by the new right-wing government that has triggered broad outcry, experts say.

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The letter, posted on Cardin’s website, described them as having close ties to Polish-American communities in the United States.

They said Poland’s action “threaten the independence of state media and the country’s highest court and undermine Poland’s role as a democratic model for other countries in the region still going through difficult transitions”.

“We urge your government to recommit to the core principles of the OSCE and the EU, including the respect for democracy, human rights, and rule of law,” the letter said.

Poland's Law and Justice party is losing its lustre

While the recently-elected right wing Law and Justice Party [PiS] is taking advantage of its parliamentary majority to undermine Poland’s constitutional order and increase control over public media, it will fade into insignificance even faster than its predecessors, writes Andrzej Ancygier.

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Szydlo replied on Sunday (14 February), also in a letter, that was made available for some local media.

Szydlo blamed the former government for the situation in the constitutional court and said the new media law did not breach any European standards.

“… the interest and goodwill of the American politicians cannot be changed into instructing and imposing actions concerning my fatherland,” Szydlo said in the letter.