Faced with possible EU sanctions for a series of controversial judicial changes which Brussels believes threaten the country’s rule of law and democratic values, the Polish government could push the country out of the bloc if it stops being a recipient of EU funds, Donald Tusk, the EU Council president, has warned.
In an interview with the Polish weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, Tusk said that “for [Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party] PiS the benefit of being in the EU boils down to the balance of payments, with a complete disregard for other benefits like the common market, legal order, guaranteed security, etc.”
In December 2017, the European Commission launched unprecedented disciplinary proceedings against Poland over its adoption of 13 laws which the Commission’s Vice President Frans Timmermans said had created a situation where the government “can systematically politically interfere with the composition, powers, the administration and the functioning” of judicial authorities.
Poland’s right-wing government, which came to power in later 2015, argues that the judicial reforms are needed to combat corruption and overhaul the judicial system the country inherited from its Communist past.
The European Commission’s measure could result in sanctions and see Poland’s EU voting rights suspended. Donald Tusk said that he still hoped that Warsaw would abandon the judicial changes of the past two years thus ending the current standoff with Brussels.
“In Brussels there’s still a huge surplus of hope — I’m not saying trust, that has unfortunately vanished already — that Poland will nevertheless remain in the EU,” the former Polish premier said.
In an apparent bid to mend fences with the EU, Poland’s new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki fired his defense and foreign ministers earlier this week saying.
“We don’t want to be a dogmatic, doctrinaire or extremist government; we want to be a government that draws together the economy and society, as well as the European and global dimensions with a local level,” Morawiecki said before meeting European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels to discuss “questions related to the rule of law” and future relations.