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Commission’s Christmas Carol for Poland

Three days before Christmas, Commission VP Frans Timmermans gave Poland’s rightwing government another two months to reverse changes to its constitutional court or face sanctions.

By: N. Peter Kramer - Posted: Friday, December 23, 2016

How serious is Timmermans’ brave talk? The Commission’s only weapon is the threat of removing Poland’ vote in the European Council of Heads of States and Governments. But it is very unlikely that such a move would get the backing of all EU member countries.
How serious is Timmermans’ brave talk? The Commission’s only weapon is the threat of removing Poland’ vote in the European Council of Heads of States and Governments. But it is very unlikely that such a move would get the backing of all EU member countries.

by N. Peter Kramer

He said that sanctions were still in ‘the toolbox’ Brussels could use if Poland failed to solve the problems within the new deadline. Despite an earlier warning, Warsaw had still not addressed Commission concerns, including demands for the constitutional court rulings to be published. ‘The Commission believes that there is a persistent problem with the rule of law’, he said.

How serious is Timmermans’ brave talk? The Commission’s only weapon is the threat of removing Poland’ vote in the European Council of Heads of States and Governments. But it is very unlikely that such a move would get the backing of all EU member countries. For instance, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s leader, has already said that he will never back such a decision. The Commission’s alarm bell doesn't sounds much louder than a tiny Christmas bell.

Warsaw brushed off Commission’s concerns, as it did in July, when Timmermans sang the same song. Polish President Andrezj Duda told POLITICO reporters that he is squarely on the side of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) in the political and constitutional standoff in Warsaw. ‘The European Commission has overstepped its bounds’, Duda said.

Last week European Council President Donald Tusk declared also ‘war’ to the Polish Government. Tusk, a former Polish Prime Minister and member of Civic Platform, now the biggest opposition party, has a problem, his two-and-a-half-year term will end mid-2017. A second term is possible, but needs a unanimous decision of the Council. The Polish government, already not very content with Tusk, can easily block it. It seems that Tusk isn’t very happy with his position in Brussels and prefers a political comeback in his own country. But that could be a pre-eminent reason for the current Polish government to leave Tusk in Brussels.

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