An attack on democracy? Worries over Poland mount in Brussels and Berlin

Der Spiegel reports: No, Frans Timmermans says, unfortunately he still hasn’t received an answer. The deputy head of the European Commission has written to the government in Warsaw twice in recent weeks to express his concern over the rule of law in Poland. Instead of the requested letter, all he got was gloating on the part of new Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszcykowski. Any EU official “who came to office via political connections” is “not a legitimate partner” for a government elected by the people, Waszcykowski scoffed.

Timmermans these days is having to exercise his utmost diplomatic skill in order to avoid an escalation of tensions. When, during a visit to Amsterdam on Thursday, Timmermans was asked about the Polish foreign minister’s jibe, he could have struck back. But there is already enough tension, so he chose to take a different tack, instead praising the transformation of Eastern European countries from socialist dictatorships to free societies. But, he added, true democracies include two important elements: the protection of human rights and adherence to the rule of law.

The fact that Timmermans had to utter something that obvious says a lot about the current state of the European Union — and developments in Poland. In less than two months, the country’s new nationalist-conservative government has succeeded in disempowering the constitutional court, passing a law establishing government control over public broadcasting and installing party-aligned political appointees at the head of its intelligence services. “We want to cure our country of a few illnesses,” Foreign Minister Waszcykowski told Germany’s tabloid Bild earlier this month.

It’s a choice of words most often associated with autocrats and has alarmed the European Commission. On Wednesday, the EU executive is expected to discuss whether or not it will open the so-called “rule of law mechanism.” Should it do so, it would mark the first time a member state has been subjected to that level of scrutiny for violating the fundamental values of the European Union. [Continue reading…]

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