Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!

× Learn more
No, thanks Photo: Abbas Atilay
back  |  printBookmark and Share

Poland Clashes With Both EU and U.S. Over Recent Moves

Ruling party, risking EU voting rights suspension, appoints own nominees to judicial watchdog, while Holocaust law might cost Warsaw U.S. funding for military projects.

7 March 2018

In a vote on Tuesday in the Sejm, Poland’s lower house of parliament, Law and Justice (PiS) party members approved the appointment of 15 candidates to the National Council of the Judiciary, whose aim is to oversee judicial impartiality. The candidates put forth by PiS were the only ones proposed, after the opposition refused to participate in the vote and offer its own nominees, Deutsche Welle reports.


The opposition’s boycott is directed at the legislative change allowing for the move, which was adopted last year, and which PiS justifies as a way of ridding the judiciary of members that used to be part of the communist elite. Critics, such as former Justice Minister Borys Budka, argue that the changes will put an end to the separation of powers in the country, DW writes.


The government’s overhaul of the judiciary as well as the public broadcaster have been at the core of arguments with the European Commission.


The possibility of EU sanctions has been looming large over Warsaw but accelerated last week, when a majority of members of the European Parliament voted in favor of an EC recommendation to invoke Article 7 in response to Warsaw’s undermining of the rule of law, DW writes in another article.


The EC’s decision at the end of December to trigger, for the first time, Article 7, the union’s most powerful weapon against its members that defy its values, did not immediately threaten Poland with sanctions. But Warsaw has been facing the possibility of being stripped of its voting rights – the most serious punishment in the bloc’s arsenal – provided that all member states agree.


So far, Hungary, which has also caught Brussels’ attention due to the authoritarian tendencies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has repeatedly backed Poland, most recently through a vote of support at the end of February.


Warsaw will have difficulty finding allies on the other side of the Atlantic. Various reports point to a recent worsening of its relations with Washington over a recently adopted Holocaust law. Citing Polish media, POLITICO writes that the Central European country could face several repercussions as a result of a law adopted on 1 March that makes it illegal to suggest that the Polish nation or its people were responsible or complicit in Nazi crimes.


U.S. government official Wess Mitchell, who is the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, reportedly condemned the law on freedom-of-expression grounds and gave Warsaw a three-point ultimatum, which included “no high-level bilateral contacts between countries until the crisis gets solved” and the threat of withholding funding for joint U.S.-Polish military projects.



  • “If we consider that only around 300,000 Jews (around 10 percent of their population in Poland) were saved from the Holocaust, then for everyone who fairly analyses the circumstances of World War [II] it must be clear that several times more of Poles were involved in rescuing them,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in a letter made published by The Jerusalem Post. Boteach, an American Orthodox rabbi, had offered to mediate the dispute between Poland and Israel.


  • “Despite the sacrifices that millions of Poles made during World War II, they are still being mistaken with the accomplices of Germans (who are frequently being labeled simply as ‘the Nazis’ without pointing to their nationality – contrary to Poles) – and it happens too often. In recent years, Polish authorities had to intervene 1,300 times when phrases [such] as ‘Polish camps,’ ‘Polish gas chambers’ or similar were publicly mentioned worldwide,” Morawiecki also wrote.


  • In other news from Poland, lawmakers voted yesterday to demote communist-era military officers, including the country’s last communist leader, the late Wojciech Jaruzelski, to the ranks of privates, according to AP.


  • The legislation, which still needs to be approved by the head of state and by the Senate, was deemed “vengeful” by some who disagree with it. 

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

back  |  printBookmark and Share


Summer journalism program: Going on Assignment in Prague:  Practical training by respected journalists and media professionals.  Not yet decided whether to join us for our July 2018 course? Don't hesitate! Apply or check our website for more info



Moldovan diaries

The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.

This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes. 

It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.


© Transitions Online 2018. All rights reserved. ISSN 1214-1615
Published by Transitions o.s., Baranova 33, 130 00 Prague 3, Czech Republic.