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Polish Senate speaker: We are not anti-Europe

Bartosz Dudek | Harald Biskup
July 24, 2018

In a DW interview, Senate speaker Stanislaw Karczewski defended the country's controversial judicial reforms that have been challenged by the EU. He also praised the Polish people for being Europe-friendly.

Thousands of people protesting in Warsaw against the Polish government's judicial reforms
Despite the ruling PiS party's claim that its judicial reforms have broad public success, thousands have turned out to protest the measures Image: Reuters/Agencja Gazeta/D. Zuchowicz

Deutsche Welle: The European Union — in particular the European Commission — accuses Poland of undermining the separation of powers. There is also considerable criticism of the Supreme Court reforms. How do you rate the accusations?

Stanislaw Karczewski: I understand the interest in the reforms of our judicial system. I can assure you that in Poland, we respect the threefold division of powers. At the same time, however, we believe that the judiciary should be controlled in the same way as the legislative and executive branches. I would also like to point out that it is not the European Union, but only some EU politicians who have been directing such accusations against Poland.

Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans' criticism of our judicial reform is certainly associated with the difficult political situation in the Netherlands. He is losing support there and apparently wants to regain political support through his activities before the next European elections.

We, the PiS party, announced the current judicial reform in our election platform. We are now implementing it step by step and we have a great deal of support in society.

DW: The early retirement of the President of the Supreme Court is unusual in Western legal systems. [Supreme Court President] Malgorzata Gersdorf has invoked the Constitution; she does not want to accept this retirement.

The president of the Supreme Court is 65 years old, so by law she is retired. The law allows for Supreme Court judges who have reached the age limit to appeal to the President of the Republic to continue to administer the law even beyond the age limit. Ms. Gersdorf had one month before the law came into force. Many judges have made applications to the President under the law. Madam President could have, too.

Stanislaw Karczewski
Stanislaw Karczewski: "We don't want anyone forcing anything on us again"Image: picture-alliance/PAP

DW: In France for instance, when the president's term was shortened, that ruling applied to the incumbent Jacques Chirac's successor.

That's not a good comparison. This is not about shortening the term of office, but about the expiration of a judge's mandate. That's different. A simple law cannot shorten the term of office of the President of the Supreme Court.

DW: Shouldn't the new law take effect for newly appointed judges?

This applies to all judges and will also apply to the new judges.

DW: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are in favor of a common budget for the eurozone. Aren't you afraid that Poland might fall behind?

Poland is one of 28 EU member states. The reforms can only be carried out in consultation with all member states. Any citizen interested in the EU's concerns can see that the union is in crisis. One of the reasons is the euro crisis, a currency that was unwisely introduced in many countries. After the talks I have had here in Germany, I am sure there will be an in-depth debate on the EU budget. I believe a newly elected European Parliament will decide on this.

Poland is a country of Europe enthusiasts: 85 percent of our citizens support our membership in the EU. This is strong approval, and it's similar to the approval rate for the judicial reform.

Our party is accused of being anti-European. That's not true. There has never been a statement by the party's political leaders that would confirm that. I am convinced that the decision on the future EU budget, this important project for Poland and Europe, will be made with the agreement of all EU members.

Mateusz Morawiecki on Conflict Zone

DW: But isn't a participation by all states in taking in refugees within the framework of their means part of committing to Europe?

Do those who criticize know that more than two million Ukrainians have come to Poland over the past two years? Many politicians in the EU do not know this. It is not a question of quotas or the distribution of migrants, but of choosing the model of society in which we want to live. We see what is happening in the world — in Germany, France — where parallel societies exist that do not want to integrate because they are committed to different values. Poland welcomes Ukrainians because they are very likely to respect our values.

It must be in the interest of all EU countries to better protect the external borders and support the people in their countries of origin. The EU should pursue a migration policy like Australia's, for instance. And another thing: Poland was on the other side of the Iron Curtain for decades. The Soviet Union forced its will on us. We had to do what they wanted. That's why we don't want anyone forcing anything on us again.

DW: You are comparing Brussels with the Kremlin, though indirectly?

That's your comparison. I'm speaking about historic facts. We Polish people very much love and respect freedom.

Stanislaw Karczewski (born 1955) is a national conservative politician of the Polish ruling PiS ("Law and Justice") party. Since 2015, the trained physician has been president of the Senate, the second chamber of the Polish Parliament. He ranks third in Poland in terms of protocol.