Europe

Polish prime minster: No risk of EU sanctions against Poland

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo,left, listens to a debate in the Parliament next to prominent member of the ruling Law and Justice party, and lawmaker Elzbieta Witek, right, in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. Poland’s prime minister says that the nation’s democracy is “doing well” while European Union leaders are debating the rule of law under her right-wing government. The European Council is debating opinions that democracy and media freedom in Poland are threatened by new legislation that the ruling Law and Justice party, in power since November, adopted on state broadcasters and the Constitutional Tribunal. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo,left, listens to a debate in the Parliament next to prominent member of the ruling Law and Justice party, and lawmaker Elzbieta Witek, right, in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. Poland’s prime minister says that the nation’s democracy is “doing well” while European Union leaders are debating the rule of law under her right-wing government. The European Council is debating opinions that democracy and media freedom in Poland are threatened by new legislation that the ruling Law and Justice party, in power since November, adopted on state broadcasters and the Constitutional Tribunal. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s right-wing prime minister said Thursday Jan. 14, 2016 she doesn’t believe the European Union will impose sanctions on the country over new laws that have been criticized as running counter to the bloc’s principle of the rule of law.

In a bitter surprise to Polish leaders, the EU’s executive Commission on Wednesday Jan. 13, 2016 decided to carry out a preliminary assessment of new laws affecting Poland’s constitutional court and state media. It’s the first step in a drawn-out procedure that could ultimately lead to suspending Polish voting rights in the 28-nation bloc, although any sanctions would require unanimous approval from the 28.

The escalating standoff is seen by Poland’s conservative government as undue meddling in national affairs, and by the EU as a warning that democratic standards in this major member may be slipping.

Premier Beata Szydlo said Thursday she doesn’t believe the EU could imposes sanctions on Poland because the “European Commission cannot punish anyone.”

“I am not saying that we made no mistakes, or that some things could not have been done in a different way,” Szydlo told TVN24.

In December, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party took steps to gain influence in the constitutional tribunal, which is supposed to be an independent arbiter with the power to block government legislation and is currently dominated by judges linked to the opposition. Critics said the ruling party’s steps threatened democracy.

In addition, Poland’s president signed a law last week that heads toward giving the government full control of state radio and television, which critics see as undermining free speech.

Szydlo insisted these steps were authorized by voters in recent elections. She spoke to European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Thursday and both agreed they want the matter resolved as soon as possible, said Rafal Bochenek, spokesman for Poland’s government.

However, Schulz told a news conference that EU standards did not allow a victorious party to rebuild a whole country along its particular plan.

The European Parliament will debate Poland on Wednesday Jan. 20, 2016 and Szydlo said she will take an active part in the session.

 

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