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Rule of LawPoland

Poland should not stay in EU 'at all costs,' says minister

August 6, 2021

Poland's justice minister has slammed what he called the EU's "blackmail" over the country's judicial reforms. Regarding the 27-nation bloc as a "good uncle" was false, he said.

Zbigniew Ziobro
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro feels that Poland must not cede all all EU demandsImage: Jacek Dominski/Eastnews/imago images

Poland should not yield to European Union demands to renounce its judicial reforms, nor should it remain a member of the bloc at all costs, the country's justice minister said in an interview published on Friday.

Zbigniew Ziobro's remarks come as Warsaw and Brussels continue to be at loggerheads over the rule of law, with Poland facing an August 16 deadline to heed a ruling by a top EU court or possibly face financial penalties.

What did the justice minister say?

Ziobro told the daily Rzeczpospolita newspaper that he was "a staunch opponent of succumbing to the illegal blackmail of the European Union carried out by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)."

"The belief that the EU is a good uncle and gives us money, and that we should accept all its demands at all costs, is propaganda and false," he said. 

He added that although he thought Poland should be in the EU, its membership should not continue regardless of all consequences.

As well as criticizing the bloc for its actions on Poland's judicial reforms, Ziobro also railed against the EU for allegedly promoting "LGBT ideology" and for allowing refugees to enter the bloc. He said two nations, Poland and Hungary, stood in the way of the EU's efforts to create a common federal state and "blur cultural differences."

"We are a victim of a brutal political attack by EU institutions," he said.

Ziobro leads the archconservative United Poland party, the junior partner in Poland's ruling coalition.

People carry European Union and Polish flags during a protest in solidarity with Poland's judges
The judicial reforms in Poland met with considerable protest, as here in January 2020Image: Getty Images/AFP/C. Sokolowski

What does the EU want Poland to do?

The bloc's executive body, the European Commission, has called on Poland to disband a disciplinary chamber for judges that it says does not guarantee the judiciary's independence and undercuts EU law.

The disciplinary chamber has the power to lift judges' immunity and even bring about their dismissal.  

Opposition parties, human rights groups and the EU say that giving the justice minister more control over judges undermines the independence of the judiciary.

So far, Poland has only stopped further cases going to the chamber pending legislative changes or a final verdict from the CJEU.

Ziobro was the architect of Poland's judicial overhaul, which included the establishment of the disciplinary chamber.

He says the reforms were necessary to stop some judges from believing they were above the law.  

People protesting against the judicial reforms, with one banner showing Igor Tuleya with his mouth covered in sticking plaster
Some prominent judges, including Igor Tuleya (pictured in the front poster), have been suspended after they protested at the reformsImage: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Is a Polish exit from the EU likely?

Surveys have shown that a large majority of people in Poland are in favor of remaining part of the EU.

However, in a recent poll carried out for Rzeczpospolita, 17% of Poles said they would like to see the country leave the bloc. This represents an increase on previous surveys.

tj/rs (Reuters, dpa)