EU: Expert on fears of Poland being 'marginalised'
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The European Commission President said punitive fines were just one tool that the bloc has in its arsenal to keep Warsaw in line. Her threat comes after the EU’s Brussels-based executive called for daily fines for Poland over its controversial judiciary reforms. Eurocrats launched a further infringement procedure against Poland after the country failed to abide by a European Court of Justice order to disband a chamber established to punish judges.
Discussing the issue, Mrs von der Leyen said: “We have to be legally correct, enforce the law but stay sober and seek dialogue.
“The European Commission consistently launched infringements over violations of EU law.
“Fines are part of our tools, if need be.”
Brussels claims Poland’s disciplinary chamber is a threat to the country’s judicial independence because it makes judges subject to political control.
Whereas Warsaw insists the regime is needed as an essential weapon to rid itself of communist-era systems.
The clash between the Commission and the Polish government has sparked an uncomfortable debate about the future of the EU.
Warsaw issued a Brexit-styled warning to Brussels after the row was escalated by the threat of daily fines.
A spokesman for Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party said it would “have to search for drastic solutions” to end the dispute.
Ryszard Terlecki said the movement wants to remain in the EU and forge a constructive relationship with Brussels.
But he warned that the EU “should be acceptable to us”.
“If things go the way they are likely to go, we will have to search for drastic solutions,” he said.
“The British showed that the dictatorship of Brussels bureaucracy did not suit them and turned around and left.”
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Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has also warned that the proceedings against Poland have the potential to open a dangerous can of worms.
He assured Polish president Andrzej Duda that Budapest would offer its full support to Warsaw in the legal spat.
Hungarian justice minister Judit Varga also claimed the Commission had “crossed a line that we previously thought it would never do”.
But despite opposition to the battle, top EU officials have continued to ramp up their threats against Poland.
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The bloc’s justice commissioner even suggested that Warsaw could be blocked from receiving cash from the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund until it respects the rules.
Didier Reynders told the Financial Times: “I must say that we are at the end of the so-called dialogue on this with Poland.
“We have tried to engage in a real dialogue with some letters and some documents, then before the Court.
“We have received positive reactions from the Court of Justice but there is no intention from Poland to be in full compliance with ECJ rulings, and so the next step is financial.”
The threat was echoed by EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, who said the pandemic funds would be linked to Warsaw’s response to the ECJ ruling.
Mr Reynders added: “It’s quite difficult for the Commission to approve a financial plan without a real condition concerning the disciplinary regime of the judges, because we are at the end of the process and we asked for financial sanctions before the court.”
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