Is Poland a controversial country

Controversy over fundamental rights in Poland : Poland's government wants to get rid of a critic

At the EU finance summit in Brussels, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban resolutely opposed a regulation that in future violations of the rule of law in individual EU countries could be punished with cuts in Brussels subsidies.

Even if more than a week after the special summit it is still unclear whether a regulation with tough sanctions will actually come, a person from Brussels shows how urgent the debate about a functioning rule of law mechanism is.

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It is about Karolina Dreszer-Smalec from Poland, who plays a leading role in the Polish Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and has been the Vice-Head of the Rule of Law Group at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels for two years. The group visited Poland in 2018 and met representatives from civil society, social partners, the media, the judiciary and the authorities there.

In the report that was subsequently published, it was criticized, among other things, that the judicial reform laws were perceived by many participants as an attempt to “tear down the judicial system”. It was also pointed out that judges loyal to the government supported the reform.

In Brussels, Dreszer-Smalec, who co-authored the report on Poland, is a recognized personality. She is "a very level-headed person," says the SPD MEP Gabriele Bischoff. For the new five-year term of office of the European Economic and Social Committee, which is about to begin, Dreszer-Smalec in Brussels is earmarked for a prominent position in the committee that has an advisory function at European level.

Director of the National Freedom Institute spoke of "lies"

However, it is up to the governments in the EU member states who they send to the committee in Brussels. And in Warsaw they obviously want to end the 38-year-olds at EU level. Last month, José Antonio Moreno Diaz, President of the Rule of Law Group at the EESC, complained in a statement that the Polish authorities were publicizing his colleague. Wojciech Kaczmarczyk, director of the National Freedom Institute, complained that the rule of law group's Poland report contained “false information, even lies”.

In the meantime, several MEPs from all political groups have stepped onto the scene to face Dreszer-Smalec. In a letter to the permanent representative of Poland to the EU last week, the parliamentarians pointed out that the members of the European Economic and Social Committee were not bound by instructions from the capitals.

If it is true that Dreszer-Smalec will not be nominated by Warsaw for the coming term of office, such a "disappointing decision" should be reconsidered, the letter said.

European Movement Germany appeals to ambassadors

Before that, numerous board members of the European Movement Germany (EBD), a non-partisan European network of associations, foundations and parties, had written a similar letter to the Polish ambassador in Berlin, Andrzej Przyłębski. Dreszer-Smalec is committed to a “lively and diverse civil society and the preservation of European values”, was the appeal of the EBD board members.

In Przyłębski's answer, however, it was said that functions such as membership in the European Economic and Social Committee would “not be conferred forever”.

The SPD MEP Bischoff criticizes the fact that Poland and Hungary have "repeatedly torpedoed" the work of the rule of law group in the EESC in the past. "The behavior of the Polish government sends a fatal signal: Anyone who, as a civil society actor, tries to get involved in the rule of law and fundamental rights runs the risk of not being nominated again," said Bischoff.

And the CDU MP Michael Gahler thinks the process shows “that the Polish government does not want to object when it comes to the rule of law”.

Orban and Morawiecki rely on the right of veto

Meanwhile, the EU member states in Brussels cleared the way on Wednesday for further negotiations on the EU financial package that the heads of state and government had previously agreed on. The European Parliament, which still has to agree to the compromise, advocated an effective rule of law mechanism in a resolution last week.

The EU parliamentarians want to ensure that a proposal by the EU Commission from 2018 on the rule of law is revived. The plan of the Brussels authority provides - unlike the decision of the special Brussels summit - a comparatively low hurdle for the reduction of EU funds.

Hungary's head of government and his Polish colleague, on the other hand, argue that, according to the summit resolution, the level of the heads of state and government must deal with the issue of sanctions - and there Orban and Morawiecki have a right of veto.

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