The EU is not convinced by the Polish arguments on the judicial changes at the end of the summit

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Polish arguments that the fundamental judicial changes the country has made would not undermine the European Union on Friday failed to convince key leaders of the bloc who said the withholding of billions in EU recovery funds would likely continue to Unless Warsaw realigns.

At the end of a two-day EU summit dominated by confrontation over fundamental values ​​such as judicial independence and the primacy of EU law in member states, a large majority of leaders insisted that preparations for sanctions against Poland had to continue apace.

“No European country can call itself European if its judges are not independent,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

And when Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cast doubt that EU law should take a backseat to national standards, many leaders insisted that the EU executive arm had no choice but to act against Poland for the dispute of the rule of law.

“There are no alternatives. The laws are clear, ”said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. “The treaty … the basis of the union, was called into question. It is clear that the Commission cannot not go ahead ”.

EU nations have warned for years about what they see as a setback to democratic principles in Poland when it comes to an independent judiciary and free media. They said the nationalist Morawiecki government filled the constitutional court with handpicked judges and then had the same court challenge the supremacy of EU law.

Important debate on the rule of law and judicial independence in Poland.

The rule of law guarantees mutual trust, legal security and equality between Member States and citizens.

A fundamental pillar of the rule of law is judicial independence.

This was the core of our discussion pic.twitter.com/XW2kiiMdTt

– Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) October 22, 2021

To counter this, Morawiecki claims that the EU institutions are so power-hungry that they treat the 27 member nations as mere vassals, taking power without a legal basis and imposing their values ​​against the wishes of sovereign peoples.

And by threatening sanctions, he said the EU was using simple “blackmail”.

Even with months, if not years, to go for many potential sanctions, the EU is withholding € 36 billion in resilience funds for Poland aimed at helping the nation recover from the pandemic. It has not released the funds because Poland needs to meet certain conditions that many leaders say require legal changes that Morawiecki refuses to make.

“I don’t see a situation if this still persists, that the Commission will decide on the resilience plan for Poland,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “You have to address the general issues related to the rule of law. This was very clear, “he said, adding that a large majority of leaders felt that way.

The executive arm of the EU can initiate infringement procedures or activate a mechanism that allows the suspension of other payments from the EU to a member country that violates the principles of the rule of law.

However, such a confrontation could throw the bloc into another existential crisis that German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to avoid.

Merkel said that in her meetings with Morawiecki, she and Macron “expressed our great concern that we must get out of this growing spiral, because the rule of law, particularly in this context of judicial independence, is of course a key pillar of European values. . ”.

European integration is a civilization and a strategic choice. We are here, we belong here and we are not leaving. We want to make Europe strong, ambitious and courageous again. That is why we are not only looking at short-term benefits, but also at what we can give to Europe. pic.twitter.com/XjsMIA7BOI

– Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) October 19, 2021

Poland has been seen lately as an attempt to undermine the EU with anti-Brussels rhetoric and actions, just as Prime Minister Viktor Orban has done in recent years. He fears that the EU is wearing thin around the edges and that another way out, like the UK’s, is looming.

At a press conference in Brussels after the summit, Morawiecki argued that Poland has no problem with the rule of law and that those who think they do not understand the problems that Poland has faced with a judiciary that needed radical reforms and that still need more. reforms. He also argued that there must be limits to the power of the EU, saying that it is not a “super state”.

“Nobody agreed with this in Europe,” he said.

Morawiecki argued that there are areas for which the EU has no responsibility, citing sport, health, public safety and border security as examples.

Fight against ‘human trafficking’ in Belarus

The bloc was somewhat more united on the issue of illegal immigration from Belarus, as EU leaders promised in the end to “keep up the pressure” on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to stop the flow of immigrants from their country and raise the possibility of new sanctions. amid calls from some member states to build walls and fences to thwart the arrival of newcomers.

Poland and Lithuania have been struggling to cope with an unusually high number of immigrants arriving at their borders with Belarus in recent months. The EU accuses the Lukashenko government of using them to destabilize the 27-country region in retaliation for EU sanctions.

After nearly five hours of discussions, the leaders agreed that “they will not accept any attempt by third countries to instrumentalize migrants for political purposes.” They also condemned “all hybrid attacks on the borders of the EU”.

Migrant arrivals began to rise a year ago after the EU imposed sanctions on the Lukashenko government for the August 2020 presidential elections, which the West considers manipulated, and the security crackdown on the Belarusian opposition and peaceful protesters that followed. .

The leaders vowed to continue to counter what EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called “state-sponsored smuggling.”

The EU’s executive arm has already proposed tightening visa restrictions on members of the Lukashenko government, and Von der Leyen said the EU was ready to explore additional sanctions against individuals and entities. Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers discussed possible measures against Belarusian airline Belavia.

Migration has been a sensitive and divisive issue since the arrival in Europe in 2015 of more than 1 million migrants, most of them refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. The exodus caused one of the biggest political crises in the EU and member states have yet to find an agreement on a system that guarantees the shared responsibility of the newcomers.

A dozen EU countries said before the summit that the bloc should finance the construction of physical barriers to better protect itself. The European Commission says it has never funded fences, although it recognizes the right or need for EU countries to put up protective barriers.

A dozen EU countries said before the summit that the bloc should finance the construction of physical barriers to better protect itself. The European Commission says it has never funded fences, although it recognizes the right or need for EU countries to put up protective barriers.

However, Von der Leyen said that although EU funds are used for border management, including equipment, personnel and logistics, “there will be no funding for barbed wire and walls.”

( Jowhar with AP)