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Timmermans will lose his battle with Poland

At a time when the EU is confronted with many very serious crises, the European Commission is spending its energy on a dispute with one of the member states, Poland

By: N. Peter Kramer - Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Timmermans has accused Poland of deploying ‘alternative facts’ to justify the changes and has sought a signal from Poland that it would change course. The Polish government accused the VP of trampling over Poland’s sovereignty.
Timmermans has accused Poland of deploying ‘alternative facts’ to justify the changes and has sought a signal from Poland that it would change course. The Polish government accused the VP of trampling over Poland’s sovereignty.

by N. Peter Kramer*

Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has been at loggerheads for more than a year with the Polish government of the Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party. Backed by the majority of the Polish parliament, the government has changed the judicial rules for the Polish Constitutional Court. 

Timmermans has accused Poland of deploying ‘alternative facts’ to justify the changes and has sought a signal from Poland that it would change course. The Polish government accused the VP of trampling over Poland’s sovereignty. 

Witold Waszczykowski, the foreign minister, has let it be known that the Polish government considers the case closed. He also said in a meeting with Timmermans, that the Commission should ‘allow us to respect our own constitution, not your vision of our constitution’. In a letter Poland said that the reforms had ‘created the proper conditions for the Constitutional Court to be able to operate normally’. But Timmermans didn’t give up: is he afraid to lose face?

The Commission could ask the member states to strip Poland of its EU voting rights, but a unanimous vote of the other 27 member states is required. Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, has already said that he would veto any sanctions for Hungarian ally Poland. For this reason the Commission is not intending to propose sanctions at this point. Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission President, has said that proposing penalties would be pointless ‘because some member states are already saying they will refuse to invoke it’. 

Now the Commission wants member states to take responsibility for the affair, by discussing it in the European Council; in effect demanding that leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel declare their views. At the same time, it seems that some of the Commission’s legal advisers are not completely convinced about the case and have doubts about the VP’s tough approach: ‘Timmermans will lose his battle with Poland’, one of them said. ‘It will be a big blow for his big ego’.


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