Rule of law situation in Poland has deteriorated: European Parliament

People wave EU and Polish flags during a protest against supreme court legislation in Warsaw
·2 min read

WARSAW (Reuters) - The situation surrounding the rule of law in Poland has seriously deteriorated, the European Parliament said on Thursday, adding to pressure on Warsaw amid an EU investigation that could lead to Poland losing voting rights in the bloc.

Since coming to power in 2015, Poland's nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has introduced a series of judicial reforms undermining the independence of the courts by putting them under more direct government control, critics say.

In 2017 the European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, triggered an investigation against Poland, which has not resulted in any punishment for Warsaw so far.

"(The European Parliament) expresses its deep concern that... the rule of law situation in Poland has not only not been addressed but has seriously deteriorated since the triggering of the procedure referred to in Article 7," a resolution adopted by the parliament said.

Activists, the opposition in Poland and some European politicians have long called on the bloc to tie EU money to adherence to the rule of law. But instead Poland will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new EU budget.

EU Parliament deputies said on Thursday they saw an urgent need to widen the scope of the procedure triggered in 2017 by including clear risks of serious breaches of other basic values of the Union, especially democracy and respect for human rights.

Poland will oppose any plans to tie EU money to adherence to the rule of law "as understood by the EU", justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro told a news conference.

"...there are such intentions and plans of the EC and the EP to use this kind of coercive force against Poland, violence against Polish democracy by taking away from us huge European funds as an element of blackmail forcing changes in the social, moral, culture and education areas," he said.

"The Polish government will not agree to this."

(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Anna Koper; Editing by Toby Chopra)