EU Commission considers steps over controversial Polish reforms

The European Commission was considering how to respond Wednesday to concerns that reforms introduced by Poland's conservative new government may be in breach of fundamental EU values.

The Polish government has drawn strong criticism over a law giving it the power to appoint executives at the country's public broadcasters, as well as constitutional court reforms that critics say strengthen the influence of the governing Law and Justice Party.

The issue has raised tensions between Warsaw and its European partners, at a time when unity is needed within the 28-member European Union to confront the bloc's migration crisis and other pressing challenges.

The commission has the option of launching a previously unused mechanism aimed at preventing serious threats to the rule of law in the EU. Opinions were thought to differ within the bloc's executive on how to proceed.

The procedure would allow the bloc's executive to analyze the situation in a member state and draw up recommendations. In the case of non-compliance, Poland could ultimately face a suspension of voting rights in the EU.

Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans has written to Warsaw requesting information on the new media law and expressing concern over the constitutional court reforms. Poland has responded to both, firmly defending its actions.

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro asked Timmermans to "exercise more restraint" and criticized him for a "lack of knowledge" about the court reforms, arguing that they sought to redress a previous bias in the system, in a response dated January 11.

On Tuesday, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke by phone to Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

He assured her during the 45-minute conversation that the Commission's discussions are "routine procedure" to better understand the country's reforms, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told broadcaster TVN24.

Szydlo vowed on Tuesday not to back down from the government's reform course.

"We will not give up on the repair of the state," she said in a televised address to the TVP public broadcaster.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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