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EU pressurises Poland over undemocratic behaviour

Today’s European media outlets, such as Les Echos, Magyar Idok and, report that the European Commission is increasing pressure on Poland by warning the government that it is endangering constitutional democracy, after the Polish Parliament approved a controversial law giving the government direct control over top appointments in public broadcasting and that could result in the marginalisation of Poland by the rest of the Union.

The new law provides for all members of the steering committees and supervisory boards of Polish public radio and television channels to be fired with immediate effect. The Polish executive said that public media had been “under the thumb” of the previous government for eight years “without any European commissioner making a fuss about it,” further reports Les Echos.

Along the same lines, Polish Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Joachim Brudzinski said that nothing wrong is happening in Poland and thus Commissioner Oettinger and his colleagues should go back to their jobs, namely supervising the fulfillment of EU Treaties, notes Wiadomosci. In an interview granted to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and reported by most media outlets, including Sega Daily, Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that “many reasons exist for us to activate the Rule of Law mechanism and to place Warsaw under monitoring.”

Also quoted in De Morgen, Commissioner Oettinger stressed that the EC’s “main concern is for the public broadcaster to lose its most important function, namely to independently inform the citizens” Talking with Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová highlights that she is “following developments in Poland with great concern. We will discuss the situation in the Commission on 13 January and will come to a first assessment,” she adds.

La Croix and, among others, note that First Vice-President Timmermans asked Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Witold Waszczykowski to provide the European Commission with additional information regarding the law and reminded him that media freedom and pluralism are part of “the common values on which the Union is based.”

Contradictory comments about Brussels’s reaction are released, especially in the German press. In a critical tone, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Alexander Mühlauer considers that numerous “toothless” warnings from the European Commission to Poland have achieved nothing. Instead, the EU must take decisive action to protect the freedom of the press in one of its own EU member states, further stresses Mr Mühlauer.

In a more nuanced tone, Thomas Ludwig notes in an opinion piece for Handelsblatt that the EU has various options for sanctioning the country. He recommends the EU rule of law framework and demands that the European Parliament and other EU member states take a stance on the matter. In reaction to EC President Juncker’s decision to put the Polish issue on the agenda of the European Commission’s session on 13 January, Gerd Appenzeller says in Tagesspiegel that he is confident that Polish civil society can turn the tables without sanctions from Brussels and recalls that there are more pressing matters in Europe.

A positive commentary is provided by Thomas Mayer, in Der Standard, saying that EC President Juncker and EC First Vice-President Timmermans cannot be accused of hesitancy or cowardice following their decision to activate the rule-of-law mechanism against Poland. Mr Mayer considers this move as unprecedented, courageous and necessary.



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