Tusk says hopes Poland will avoid more conflicts with Brussels

European Council President Donald Tusk at final news conference during European Council meeting in Brussels on 15 December 2017. [Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE]

The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, voiced hope that Poland’s government would ‘come to its senses’ and avoid further confrontation with Brussels which could result in unprecedented sanctions against the country. However, Polish leaders appeared to remain defiant. EURACTIV Poland reports.

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, spoke in  Krakow after the European Commission activated on Wednesday (20 December) Article 7 procedure against Poland, due to “a risk of serious breach of the rule of law”. The procedure sets off a lengthy process that could ultimately lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the Council of Ministers.

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”.

“I hope that the Polish government will come back to its senses and will not search for conflict in a matter in which it is simply wrong,” Tusk said. He stressed that he “will do everything so that no punishments befall Poland” but warned that “the consequences are already there”.

“With great surprise, Brussels is looking at what is happening in Warsaw,” said Tusk.

Morawiecki: Poland is attached to the rule of law as much as the EU is

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who only took over from Beata Szydło earlier this month, gave little indication of a willingness to compromise.

“Poland is attached to the rule of law as much as the EU. The reform of the justice system is necessary in Poland. We need openness and integrity in the dialogue between Warsaw and the Commission. I believe that the subjectivity of Poland can be reconciled with the idea of a United Europe,” he wrote on Twitter.

Morawiecki was also supported by his predecessor Beata Szydło.

“Poland has always had a dialogue with the European Commission. Like every sovereign EU member state, we have the right to reform the judiciary in accordance with our constitution. The Commission’s duty is to respect the rule of law of the EU member states, openness and dialogue. This is what the EU needs today,” she wrote on Twitter.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said the Commission’s decision was a political gesture because, he said, the planned judicial laws “exist in individual EU countries”.

“This is another argument pointing to the fact that this decision has a political taste, that it’s politics,” he said and added that the Polish government must now “more effectively finish what we started so that Poland is respected for its rule of law.” “Let’s approach it with calmness,” Ziobro argued.

The Vice-President of the European Parliament, Ryszard Czarnecki, said the measures taken by the Commission were a “punishment” for not accepting immigrants from outside of Europe.

Poland and the other three Visegrad countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia – have steadily opposed the EU’s system of quotas for refugee relocation. Last week they agreed to jointly contribute €35m to the project of improving border protection and preventing migration from Libya.