EU could ‘halt voting rights of Poland’
BRUSSELSThe EU warned Poland yesterday that it would suspend its voting rights if it pushes ahead with controversial court reforms, sparking a furious reaction from Warsaw.
Poland’s right-wing government accused Brussels of “blackmail” after the European Commission signficantly raised the stakes in the confrontation.
President Andrzej Duda’s unexpected vetoing of two controversial reforms, including one targeting the supreme court, had not ended the risk to the independence of the Polish judiciary, Brussels said.
“In this past week some things have changed in Poland -- and some things have not,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told a news conference after a fresh high-level meeting on the crisis.
With the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party vowing to push ahead with the reforms, Timmermans warned in particular against the mass sacking of supreme court judges.
“If such a measure is taken the commission is ready to immediately trigger the Article 7 procedure,” Timmermans said.
Article 7 is a never-before-used EU process designed to uphold the rule of law, a so-called “nuclear option” that can freeze a country’s right to vote in meetings of EU ministers.
The legal reforms have triggered mass street protests in Poland and raised fears for the rule of law in one of the EU’s leading eastern former communist states.
Brussels and Warsaw have been at loggerheads over the legal changes ever since the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party took power in 2015 and announced reforms to Poland’s constitutional court. The latest threats infuriated Warsaw. “We won’t accept blackmail on the part of EU officials, especially blackmail that is not based on facts,” Polish government spokesman Rafal Bochenek told the PAP news agency.