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EU Commission to discuss crisis in Poland next week.

European media outlet’s attention continues to be focused on Poland’s ultra-conservative government that faces intensified scrutiny by the European Commission after pushing through legislation to rein in the country’s constitutional court and state media.

Le Figaro notes that Poland, formerly the “EU’s model pupil, could become its black sheep”, due to its drift towards authoritarianism. The European Commission has just sent two consecutive requests to Poland, asking it to provide explanations about its law expected to dismiss public TV and radio executive staff and to grant de facto control of these media to the PiS leaders. Nepszabadsag and the Austria press say, however, that Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans received no response to his inquiries and that the European Parliament plenary session on 19 January is to address the matter.

In an interview, reported by Le Soir, Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Witold Waszczykowski already stated that First Vice-President Timmermans “is not a legitimate partner”. Le Figaro, Gazeta Wyborcza and Naftemporiki, among others, note that the EU executive will hold a “first orientation debate” on 13 January for the rule of law in Poland, as stated by a EC Spokesperson  during a press conference in Brussels. In a first instance, the European Commission, under its own responsibility, could determine “a systemic threat” against EU values and ask the country, in a non-binding manner, to return to the norm.

In case of failure, article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty could be invoked for “grave and persistent violation” of these values and lead to the suspension of some Polish rights, adds Le Figaro. Austrian media point out that the Brussels-Warsaw conflict shows no sign of easing while Luxembourg’s Le Quotidien features Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn’s opinion on the new Polish government, comparing it to the Soviet Union.

“The European Commission crosses swords with Poland,” reads a Le Soir headline. In an opinion piece for Puls Biznesu, Jacek Zalewski believes that the very possibility that the European Commission might open the procedure leading to the hypothetical suspension of Poland as an EU member should be a cause of shame for the government. Mr Zalewski says he would be willing to wager that any question from Brussels will be met by a “besieged fortress” syndrome reaction from the Szydło Government.

In a commentary for Delo, Boris Čibej stresses that tackling the “Polish crisis” might become a test for the EU which will reveal whether the Union has any corrective measures at hand that could calm down its rebellious family member or whether it is indeed in a major family crisis. NRC Next’s Stéphane Alonso shares this opinion, highlighting that much is at stake because Poland is a politically and economically significant country.

In related news, Le Monde, and The Daily Telegraph, among others, publish the reactions of several Polish politicians. Foreign Minister Waszczykowski declared stoically that Poland “just wants to heal the country from certain diseases, in order to get well”, thereby referring to the “Marxist model”, a “mix of cultures and races, resisting any form of religion” advocated by the previous government.

Quoted in The Daily Telegraph, he further defends the Polish government by stressing that he is “concerned by the comments of this or that Commissioner” – referring more specifically to Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger -, “who appear unaware of the situation in the country but are already expressing their opinions in the media without access to right documentation.” Mr Waszczykowski’s point of view is further expressed in Austrian media, stressing that criticism of Poland’s new media law, levelled by Commissioner Oettinger and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, has “exclusively” been their own opinion and is creating the impression that international institutions are having an important debate about Poland.



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