Poland worried by EU vote to censure Hungary

Newly-elected Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban (R) talks with Polish presidential candidate and head of the main opposition party PiS Jaroslaw Kaczynski during their meeting in Warsaw, Poland, 2 June 2010. [Pawel Supernak/EPA]

Poland on Wednesday (12 September) said it was very worried by the European Parliament’s rare decision to launch a procedure against Hungary for posing a “systemic threat” to the EU’s founding values.

The vote took the first steps under Article 7 of the European Union Treaty, known by some in Brussels as the “nuclear option”, which could ultimately strip Hungary of its EU voting rights.

MEPs trigger Article 7 against Hungary after evasive Juncker speech

MEPs voted en masse to trigger Article 7 proceedings against Hungary on Wednesday (12 September), although Jean-Claude Juncker’s early morning Strasbourg speech failed to send much of a clear signal against Budapest’s alleged rule of law violations.

Other EU governments could halt any further action, however, and Poland — a fellow ex-communist state that is also facing an Article 7 procedure — has warned it would do so.

In the recent past, Poland has benefitted from Hungarian support in the ‘rule of law’ procedure launched by the EU executive.

With Hungarian support, Poland defies EU over rule of law

Poland dismissed on Monday (20 February) demands that it implement judiciary reforms deemed essential by the European Commission to uphold the rule of law.

The EU has warned that controversial reforms pushed through by populist governments in both Budapest and Warsaw pose systemic threats to the bloc’s founding values such as respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

“Poland is very worried by the decision taken by Parliament today,” Joanna Kopcinska, spokeswoman for Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government told AFP via email.

Wednesday’s vote “threatens” EU unity and “sows unnecessary divisions,” she said.

“The Union is based on dialogue – and it is necessary to resolve such disputes through dialogue and not diktat,” Kopcinska added.

Polish EU parliament members allied with the PiS voted against the measure to censure Budapest, while others with links to centrist parties endorsed it.

According to the VoteWatch website, all 18 MEPs from the PiS party voted against the motion.

“We are in solidarity with the Hungarian people, who gave the Viktor Orbán government a very clear democratic mandate in recent elections,” Kopcinska said.

Poland also faces Article 7 proceedings after the EU executive launched legal action against it in December 2017.

Brussels triggers unprecedented action against Poland

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans announced with a 04:13am tweet that the EU executive had activated Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty against Poland, due to “a risk of serious breach of of the rule of law”.

At issue there are controversial judicial reforms that the EU believes puts the Polish judiciary under political control.

The Polish government argues that the changes are needed to tackle corruption and overhaul a system still haunted by Poland’s communist era.

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