Polish Prime Minster: No Risk of EU Sanctions Against Poland

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
January 14, 2016 Updated: January 14, 2016

WARSAW, Poland—Poland’s right-wing prime minister said Thursday 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 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 Jan. 20, and Szydlo said she will take an active part in the session.