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European Commission (EC) pledges support in finding solution to Poland's political crisis

EC Vice President Frans Timmermans has pledged support in finding a solution to Poland's political crisis that is straining ties with Brussels. But on a trip to Warsaw no tangible steps were taken.

Poland's constitutional crisis should be resolved internally, but the EU is ready to help find a solution, Timmermans said on Tuesday.

Polish PM Beata Szydlo

Polish PM Beata Szydlo

"I fully agree with the Polish prime minister, Beata Szydlo, when she says this is only a Polish problem and that we can only find a Polish solution," Timmermans (photo) told reporters.

Timmermans was in Warsaw on Tuesday for talks with Szydlo on the government's proposals to end a

stalemate

that has paralyzed the country's constututional tribunal for several months.

Intensive talks among officials over the past few days persuaded the EC to give Warsaw more time. An EU official said on Tuesday that Timmermans was there to conduct further negotiations rather than simply to deliver a communication which could lead to sanctions against Poland.

Timmermans told reporters it was in the EU's interest to end Poland's political crisis, adding that the commission will "continue its dialogue with Warsaw and do all to support that process." However, he also stressed that it was up to Poland and its politicians to end the stalemate. "This can be achieved soon," he said, without elaborating.

PiS: an ummovable object?

The conservative ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has been adamant it will not stand down in the face of what it sees as bullying from Brussels.

Since coming to power after September's election victory, the party has taken on what it considers vested interests within the Polish state, including the tribunal and state-run media, but has also been critical of the EU. Szydlo said last week she would "not yield to any ultimatum" from Brussels.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski told reporters that Poland is close to clinching an agreement with the commission to end the EU's first-ever probe into the state of a member's democracy.

“It appears we are near a deal,” Szymanski said, adding: “Only Poland's parliament can resolve” the court dispute.

Carrots and sticks

In January the EC implemented its "rule of law" procedure aimed at "protecting EU values," which include respect for law and democracy. It has threatened sanctions, for example Poland being stripped of its EU voting rights.

Szydlo reportedly told Timmermans that the government's goal was to make the tribunal's work transparent and efficient, while observing the rule of law. She did not, however, specify the government's proposal for a solution.

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Timmermans also held talks with the head of the tribunal, Andrzej Rzeplinski, who has opposed government moves aimed at gaining influence over the court

Opposition leaders were also meeting Tuesday, aiming to agree on proposals to seek a compromise. The leader of the civic movement in defense of democracy, or KOD, Mateusz Kijowski, was meeting with EU Parliament leader Martin Schulz for talks on the situation in Poland.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a daily news briefing Timmermans would share the results of his talks when he meets his fellow EU Commissioners in Brussels on Wednesday.

jbh/jm (AP, dpa)

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