EU tells Poland to respect democratic values | News | DW | 21.12.2016
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EU tells Poland to respect democratic values

The EU is calling on Warsaw to respect the rule of law and to allow journalists access to lawmakers while in the chamber. Among other things, many opposition MPs opposed the government-led budget vote.

The European Union is stepping up its criticism of the Polish government over its seeming lack of respect for the rule of law, and issued more recommendations for the government to fix its problems.

EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday that the 28-nation bloc "will not drop this matter" until the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) satisfies questions about the independence of its judiciary and other issues, which are widely perceived as backsliding on fundamental political rights.

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Anti-government protests in Poland

"I think this is a substantial challenge for the rule-of-law in Poland, and the rule-of-law is the basis upon which a whole European structure is built," Timmermans said during a news conference in Brussels.

"We feel a strong, strong feeling of solidarity with the Polish people who deserve, like all Europeans, to have an independent judiciary, to have a full separation of powers in their country."

The new EU warnings come as a bitter political standoff in Poland intensifies; where opposition politicians are vowing to continue a six-day-old sit-in inside parliament through the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays.

Tensions have been building in Poland ever since the socially conservative and nationalist-minded PiS came to power with a substantial majority 14 months ago.

Judiciary under fire

First and foremost the opposition wants a rerun of a debate and vote on the 2017 budget that was diverted to a side-room of the lower house, the Sejm, last week because of the sit-in, and the vote being held without opposition lawmakers present.

"We are really acting in a restrained way," Kaczynski told a news conference, flanked by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, the speakers of both chambers of parliament and a deputy speaker, against a backdrop of Polish flags.

"Opposition lawmakers are bound by the law as all other citizens are ... Blocking, taking away freedom from citizens, not allowing normal movements are all criminal acts and these acts are accepted (by the opposition)," Kaczynski said.

"This is really a road to a great calamity."

But it is Kaczynski and his PiS party that are pushing the country towards calamity, according to the leading opposition parties - Civic Platform and Modern. Both parties are, pro-European centrist parties who insist it is the government that is assaulting democracy.

Large numbers of Polish citizens agree. Thousands have taken to the streets of Warsaw and other cities in recent weeks to protest the country's latest crisis

"If PiS is not open to concessions ... then I do not see other options than to continue the protest until it is effective," Ryszard Petru, leader of the liberal Nowoczesna opposition party, told reporters said he's ready to carry on the protests over the coming weeks.

bik/rc (AP, Reuters)