Poland lashes out against EU and Paris over French deficit

Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz: "France is breaking European law and the European Commission is turning a blind eye." [Shutterstock]

Poland on Friday (4 January) accused France of breaching European Union laws by exceeding spending limits, the latest in a series of long-running clashes between the two member states.

Paris last month forecast a 2019 deficit of 3.2%, which would violate the EU-mandated limit of 3% of GDP.

Following the announcement, European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the likely breach would be “acceptable” providing it was “limited, temporary and exceptional”.

“France is breaking European law and the European Commission is turning a blind eye,” Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz said in an interview with The Times daily.

He also criticised centrist French President Emmanuel Macron for bowing to pressure from “yellow vest” demonstrators to abandon certain much-needed reforms, insisting that this only “testifies to the weakness of the state”.

Commission to judge in May France’s deficit deviation

The European Commission will conclude in May whether France’s deficit slippage caused by new spending measures represents a limited and temporary deviation allowed by the rules.

In December, Czaputowicz had called France “the sick man of Europe” in the wake of the violent protests by the “yellow vest” movement and a recent jihadist attack.

In Friday’s interview, he said his remarks had been intended to underscore that France “needs difficult reforms”.

However, Czaputowicz also extended an olive branch by saying he “hoped” Macron would visit Poland “soon”.

Macron himself had harsh words for Poland’s rightwing nationalist government, accusing its leaders in October of “lying” to their people about the European Union.

The Law and Justice (PiS) government has since backed out of some controversial judicial reforms that had set Poland on a collision course with the EU. Brussels said the PiS’s measures posed a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.

Czaputowicz’s latest remarks reflect longstanding tensions between the two countries since the PiS took office in 2015.

Bilateral ties began to sour after Poland called off a multi-billion euro deal with France’s Airbus to buy 50 of its Caracal helicopters.

The tensions also come as the European Union is set to hold key parliamentary elections in late May.

The vote could see rightwing nationalist parties like the PiS and far-right parties from France and Italy upset the balance of power in the body now dominated by the centre-right.

Macron announces financial concessions in bid to end 'yellow vest' revolt

Embattled French President Emmanuel Macron Monday (10 December) announced a series of financial measures seeking to defuse the “yellow vest” revolt that has triggered violent protests in cities across the country.

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