EU set to snatch power from Poland with ‘nuclear option’ as battle with east rages

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
By Paul Martin

EUROPEAN Union chiefs are preparing to punish Poland by stripping it of its voting rights as they step up their fight against the eastern European state.

Wed, Dec 20, 2017

The European Commission is now closer to taking the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 – the so-called nuclear option – after Poland repeatedly ignored threats and requests for dialogue over controversial policies.

Warsaw’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) is overhauling Poland’s constitutional court to bring more control to the government.

The EU is concerned Poland is undermining democratic checks and balances and on Wednesday launched an unprecedented process to suspend Poland’s voting rights in the European Union

Polish ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party spokeswoman said the move was a “political decision”.

Beata Mazurek said: “This decision has no merit, it is in our opinion solely a political decision.”

But Hungary’s Viktor Orban has signalled he will block any sanctions, as the EU struggles to maintain its grip on power in the eastern bloc.

And today Ms Mazurek said: “We know that Hungary will block any EU sanctions on Poland.”

The European Commission, the guardian of EU law, will now ask the other EU governments to declare that Poland’s changes to the judiciary constitute “a clear risk of a serious breach” of EU values – especially the rule of law.

However, it gave Warsaw, where a new prime minister took office only this month, three months to remedy the situation and said it could rescind its decision if it did so.

Often referred to as the EU’s “nuclear option”, the move carries the ultimate threat of sanctions but is in fact unlikely to result in that.

The Commission said in a statement: “The Commission has today concluded that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland.

“Judicial reforms in Poland mean that the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority. In the absence of judicial independence, serious questions are raised about the effective application of EU law.”

The move marks two years of sparring between Poland and the EU over the rule of law in the eastern European state and its refusal to meet migrant quotas.

The staunchly conservative PiS has been on a collision course with Brussels since it introduced sweeping changes to Poland’s institutions when it came into power in late 2015.

PiS denies it is undermining democratic standards in the largest ex-communist EU country but Brussels along with many other member states, the Polish opposition and rights activists, has been sounding the alarm for months.

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