News / Europe

    EU Commission to Debate New Polish Laws Amid Democracy Concerns

    Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, on Dec. 28, 2015.
    Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, on Dec. 28, 2015.

    The European Commission said on Monday it would examine the impact of laws pushed through by Poland's new right-wing government amid growing concerns for democracy and the rule of law in the EU's largest eastern

    Since winning an election last October, the Law and Justice party (PiS), which advocates higher state spending, conservative Catholic values and Euroscepticism, has moved to put Polish public TV and radio broadcasters under direct government control and to change the makeup of the constitutional court.

    The court changes prompted public protests, rattled investors and drew accusations from rights activists that PiS is undermining democratic checks and balances in a country long seen as a bulwark of economic and political stability in Europe. PiS strongly denies such charges.

    Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a regular news briefing in Brussels that the EU executive would hold a "political debate" on Jan.13 on the rule of law in Poland.

    Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, responsible for the digital economy and society, said on Sunday Warsaw should be put under the EU's rule of law supervision, a three-step procedure that could end up with the suspension of Poland's voting rights within the 28-nation bloc.

    The rule of law supervision framework was adopted in 2014 to deal with "systemic threats" to EU values. It was created amid concerns over judicial independence in two other former communist member states, Hungary and Romania.

    Schinas said the planned discussion of Poland did not amount to a first step in the rule of law procedure.

    Under that mechanism, the Commission raises its concerns with the relevant EU member state if it deems there is a systemic threat to the rule of law there. It can give the country a deadline for addressing its concerns.

    Should that fail, the EU executive arm can resort to the "nuclear option" of suspending the country's voting rights, a thing that has never happened before.

    Fears of creeping 'Orbanisation' in Poland

    The latest move from Brussels comes amid growing EU scrutiny of Poland since PiS took over in Warsaw, returning to the helm after turbulent rule in 2005-2007 that ended in acrimony.

    Jean Asselborn, foreign minister of Luxembourg, which held the bloc's rotating presidency in the second half of 2015, in December criticised Warsaw's new cabinet, saying it was following the footsteps of Hungary's Viktor Orban.

    For all its criticism of Orban, who has long been at loggerheads with the EU over economic policies and democratic freedoms, Brussels has had only modest results in reining in Hungary's ruling Fidesz party.

    Some in Brussels are determined not to let the same mistake happen again, which may put the EU capital on a collision course with Poland where PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has often praised Orban's policies.

    The PiS government accuses the opposition, strongly pro-EU centrists it ousted in last year's election, of orchestrating the protests and criticism from Brussels.


    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora