|Polish soldiers participate in military exercises in June. The EU has launched a probe into controversial new laws introduced by Poland's right-wing government. In response, Poland's Law and Justice leader vowed Monday that the eastern nation would not bow to pressure.|
Poland, EU headed for sanctions showdown
DISPUTE OVER NEW LAWS COMES AT BAD TIME FOR EUROPEAN UNION
CommentThe European Union operates by consensus and does everything it can to mollify member states whose policies or laws are out of line with official thinking.
This is one reason the EU will do what it can to find a way to avoid suspending voting rights and cutting off funds to Poland's new right-wing government as punishment for imposing direct controls on public radio and television and for challenging the independence of the country's constitutional court.
But by launching last week's unprecedented probe into a member state's commitment to democracy and justice, the EU has opened a rift with a key country on the community's threatened eastern flank. The move is being watched closely by other Euroskeptic movements across the continent.
The Law and Justice Party, which won power in Poland in October, has insisted that it has the right to defy diktats from what it considers to be liberal bureaucrats and mostly unelected officials in Brussels who do not know or understand Poland and whose rules undermine the will of Poles as has been expressed at the ballot box.
The legislation stifling public broadcasting has already resulted in the firings of much of the country's radio and television leadership.
That has sparked such a furor that the European Broadcast Union has considered banning Poland from the immensely popular Euro-vision song contest.
Although President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo are ostensibly running Poland, the country's de facto leader and eminence grise is unquestionably Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. An authoritarian and staunch opponent of liberal democracy of the kind practised in western Europe, Kaczynski has championed a populist platform that includes fierce anti-Russian rhetoric, attacks on the existing political, media and judicial establishments, and a commitment to restore the country's Catholic values.
"We have to follow our own path and not give in to any pressure," Kaczynski told the Rzeczpospolita newspaper Monday. "Poland is a sovereign state." To suggest that Polish democracy was at risk because of what his government had done was "laughable, to say the least."
For the EU, a showdown with Poland could not come at a worse moment. Kaczynski has said that rather than harass the Polish government, the EU, and especially its economic and political leader, Germany, should concentrate on resolving grave problems dealing with asylum seekers that have divided the continent.
The migrant crisis mushroomed at the same time as dithering over Greece's dire economic problems eventually produced an immensely controversial multi-billion euro bailout. Britain, where euroskepticism has always been strong, is to hold a referendum soon on whether to bolt from the union.
Poland is not the only European country where right-wing sentiment is severely testing the union's liberal values. Most of the EU's 28 member governments have been struggling to counter the rise of nationalist movements whose ideas are often little different from those now in fashion in Warsaw.
What has been happening in Poland is somewhat of a piece with what is taking place in Hungary and, to a lesser extent, in Slovakia.
In such a rapidly shifting environment, which has been inflamed by concerns about how to deal with migrants and the economy, Poles might wonder why their government has been singled out as the leading exemplar of alleged intolerance.
With Russia always ready to exploit differences within the EU, the union has little room to manoeuvre. It will perhaps find a way to punish Poland's illiberal behaviour by offering the country less economic support, but ultimately there will be more cavilling than concrete action.
When Poland hosts the NATO leaders' summit this July its major message will be that Europe needs Poland as much as Poland needs Europe. To emphasize the interdependence, it will continue to romance the military alliance - which is also based in Brussels - to establish permanent bases on its territory and in the neighbouring Baltic states.
Poland's Kaczynski is not without friends, either. Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has said he would veto any attempts to censure Warsaw. The three Baltic states would also be likely to object.
With so much at stake and with so many other difficulties imperilling the European project, the European Commission's influential President Jean-Claude Juncker said over the weekend that he expects the crises to be resolved through dialogue.
EU President Donald Tusk, himself a former Polish prime minister and usually a bitter political opponent of Kaczynski's, took the unusual step Monday of criticizing those investigating Poland and suggested there were other ways to deal with the issue than by instituting formal proceedings against his country.
In a sign that even Kaczynski may be seeking a compromise, his prime minister, Beata Szydlo, is expected to offer some kind of olive branch to the EU when she addresses the European Parliament on Tuesday.
With Russia continuing to stir the pot in Ukraine and threatening smaller EU states from Estonia in the north to Romania in the south, having Poland onside is of far greater importance to European unity and prosperity than going to the mat with the Polish government over anything that it has yet done (NATIONAL POST, Tuesday, January 19, 2016).
|"National Post", Tue. Jan. 19, 2016|
01:39 Hrs. Budzi mnie siusiu (zoltawe + puszyste).