The opening of the “rule of law” mechanism has triggered a tense debate in the European Parliament. While some parliamentarians believe Poland must step back, the European Conservative Group, to which the ruling Polish party belongs to, argues the discussion is just a political trap.

The newly elected Polish government has sparked a lot of negative reactions after its decision to pass two new controversial laws – one on the reform of its constitutional court and the other on the supervision of the public broadcasters.

The European Commission announced last week the formal opening of a special mechanism created in 2014 in case of a potential breach of the rule of law.

Beata Szydlo, the Polish prime minister, outlined during her speech in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on January 19 that the EU judgements and criticism towards Poland were “unfair” and that she believed her country did not deserve to be “controlled by Brussels.”

However, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, a Spanish member of European Parliament (MEP) for the centre-left Social-Democrats Group (S&D), believes that Poland is overreacting and should behave as a member of the European Union.

“They are reacting just like a country which is not a member of the EU, claiming national sovereignty, saying Europeans double trick, playing double moral. Not at all, Europe is about values and rule of law which is binding for every member states,” Aguilar said.

The ruling Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) is member of the European Conservatives (ECR) at the European Parliament.

Syed Kamall, the chair of the ECR, criticized the “political game” around the Polish rule of law issue, arguing that the former Polish government had the same political intentions to control the constitutional court and nobody reacted at that time.

Roberts Zile, a Latvian MEP for ECR, thinks that the current Polish government may have reacted “too fast,” but according to him, the PiS has done quite a good job on the current composition of the constitutional court.

Zile also argued that it is not the role of the Parliament to judge the Polish people and that the European Commission was just acting in a political way.

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“They just reappointed the new or the old ones and just to continue the power, and I think they reacted maybe pretty noisy and very quickly, but they establish very well, I think, their majority of the constitutional court’s judges,” Zile explained.

“Anyway, Parliament is not the place which can teach Polish people. Mr Juncker has always said ‘this European Commission is a political Commission,’ that is why they reacted as a European Commission in a political way.”

Lopez Aguilar stressed that only around 30 percent of Polish people voted in favour of this new government, therefore the other majority needs to be protected as citizens of the Union.

He also argued that EU control is not pointed personally to Poland, but as a member states of the EU where citizens’ rights need to be protected.

“This is not a debate about a foreign power putting an eye on Polish sovereignty, it is about European authorities which encompass Poland as a member state and fully rights entitled member state of the EU, which means that Polish citizens are not only Polish citizens, they are also European citizens and they have a right to be protected by the political sphere and by the political debate, too,” Aguilar stressed.

‘Donald Tusk should not be blamed’

Several members of the Social-Democrats Group have criticized the way the European Council President Donald Tusk responded to the Polish case.

Being Polish himself, Tusk was accused of not defending the EU sufficiently and being too subjective towards Poland’s rule of law issue.

Zile, who comes from a “new” EU country, Latvia, understands the uneasy position in which Tusk finds himself.

“Why he is against Europe? Because he is not from the European establishment? He didn’t come for long years here, he was prime minister of his country and he became president of the European Council, this is an important distinction and we cannot punish somebody like that. And because of the EPP family, there is much less pressure against Orban than in the case of Poland,” Zile said.

There was a general feeling among the European political groups in Strasbourg on Tuesday that the Polish government would step back on the two incriminated laws. However, according to Lopez Aguilar, the Polish rule of law debate is far from being finished.

  • Author: Laeticia Markakis, Euranet Plus News Agency

Listen to the whole debate below (or watch it above)