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Opinion

Opinion: Don’t cry for Warsaw

The EU Commission is continuing its rule of law procedure against Poland, and rightly so. If Warsaw doesn’t like the EU’s basic principles, it can leave the club, says DW’s Barbara Wesel.

It's almost as if the Polish government is just trying to test how far the European Commission will go. The EU executive in Brussels is notorious for making speeches in defense of its principles, but not backing up its words with any actions. But now, in the so-called rule of law procedure against Poland, it's finally baring its teeth.

The commission and the Polish government have been arguing since the start of the year over the decimation of Poland's constitutional court because of changes being imposed by the new government. The PIS party doesn't like the composition of the court, it wants to restrict its independence and is blocking its verdicts. That goes against basic democratic principles and, as such, against the foundations of the European Union.

There's no other way to see it: When a newly elected government wants to customize a constitutional court to best suit its interests, then it is no longer running a democratic state, but a despotic one.

Warsaw's game

Barbara Wesel Kommentarbild App *PROVISORISCH*

DW's Barbara Wesel

Warsaw has certainly not shied away from toying with the EU executive. Only two days ago, there was a sudden waving of the white flag from Warsaw: An agreement was possible, desirable even. Delegates from Brussels once again made the trip to meet with the Polish prime minister. But there was nothing like an acceptable compromise on the table. It was all just a ruse.

The political undertones accompanying this power struggle between Warsaw and Brussels have become deafening: In her latest speech before the Polish parliament, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo( pictured above with PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski) used the word "sovereignty" more than 20 times. She also spoke of "dictates" and "ultimatums" from Brussels and "a nation's right to self-determination." She capped off her rhetoric with a few references to "cultural heritage and national identity." All her noise was meant to serve one purpose only: To put an end to one of civilization's greatest achievements, namely an independent judicial system.

Poland has duties in the EU

The high point of her accusations against Brussels was the claim that the EU is pulling a fast one on Poland because the rule of law procedure did not exist 12 years ago when the contracts were signed. Of all the idiotic arguments, this is the most stupid.

Of course, there was always a duty to uphold the democratic principles of the European Union. And that's all that this is about. In case Poland hasn't yet realized it: The EU is not a cash point for member states who otherwise don't care about its goals and principles. It is not the paymaster for governments that are only interested in the autocratic exercise of their power.

The club's rules explicitly say so. And anyone who has signed the membership contract is bound by those rules. Those who no longer like them are free to leave. The government in Warsaw can, in all sovereignty, make its decision.

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