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Heated debate as European Parliament discusses Poland

PR dla Zagranicy
Roberto Galea 19.01.2016 19:29
In a European Parliament debate on Tuesday, Prime Minister Beata Szydło fended off concerns that her new government has eroded democracy in Poland.
Polish PM Beata Szydło in the EP on Tuesday. Photo: Screenshot/EPPolish PM Beata Szydło in the EP on Tuesday. Photo: Screenshot/EP

Szydło rebutted criticism of changes to the media and judiciary introduced by her Law and Justice (PiS) government, which came to power after a landslide win in Poland’s 25 October general elections.

In the first such European Parliament debate on the rule of law in an EU member country, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said that the independence of courts and freedom of the media were key components of a democracy.

Szydło argued that Law and Justice came to power as a result of democratic elections. “The Polish electorate has voted for change,” she said.

Szydło added: “I think that today’s debate is totally out of place... We are not a nationalistic party... Let me reiterate. The Polish government is running Poland because it has a mandate from the Polish people."

Critics have accused Law and Justice of trying to paralyse Poland's Constitutional Tribunal in order to stop it blocking new laws introduced by PiS.

Szydło said: “We have 15 Constitutional Tribunal judges in Poland – exactly as many as described in the constitution.”

Freedom, equality, justice and sovereignty were "values for which Poles fought for many years and which we cherish above all else," she added.

Lively discussion

Despite the low turnout of MEPs, particularly those from the European People’s Party (EPP), the discussion was lively and spirited. Many of the speakers supported the Polish government.

Britain's Syed Kamall, a conservative MEP and head of the parliament's European Conservatives and Reformists group (of which PiS is a member), called for the European Commission to be allowed to “work with Poland to address concerns”.

“It is clear they [the Polish government] don't intend to undermine the rule of law,” Kamall added.

Responding to the line taken by some European politicians, Szydło said: “I can’t imagine saying that I disrespect [a country’s] government while at the same time respecting the nation in question." (rg/pk)

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