Europe cries out against Poland: “We have reached a very dangerous point”


Opening ceremony of the European Youth Event (EYE 2021), at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (France), on October 8

STRASBOURG.- Europe’s living a celebration, But that celebration It could be greater if it weren’t for the troubles that one of its wayward ‘sons’ is giving the European Union. The celebration is none other than the European Youth Event (EYE), the great youth party that this weekend brings together in Strasbourg some 3,000 young people from all over the continent and as many thousands online. And the ‘wayward son’ is Poland, whose Constitutional Court ruled this Thursday that part of the European legislation is incompatible with its national legislation and, therefore, would allow its non-compliance.

The news of the Polish rebellion has not conditioned the celebration of the European event, but it has become a kind of elephant in the room, something that everyone sees but does not necessarily talk about … or yes. In the clusters that form after the opening session in the hemicycle, two Belgian twentysomethings and one Danish discuss the subject in English. With small variations in their speech, all three are clear: “The European Union should be stricter.”

The young people, who have come to Strasbourg to participate in the EYE and discuss the future of Europe, are convinced that the first thing the EU has to do is to “withdraw its funds” from Poland if it wants to stop the authoritarian government of Mateusz Morawiecki. And then put in place “a stronger common defense system,” they say.

The EU should not tolerate that, within it, there are governments clearly opposed to the rule of law and democracyGuy Verhofstadt

The Belgians have just taken a photo with their compatriot the MEP Guy Verhofstadt, who could not agree more with them. In his public speeches throughout the day, Verhofstadt repeatedly drops the Polish issue, and how annoying it is that Brussels is limited to issuing statements on the issue. “The EU should not tolerate that, within it, there are governments clearly contrary to the rule of law and democracy,” says the liberal to questions from The HuffPost.


Several young people take a photo with Guy Verhofstadt MEP.

The Belgian MEP refuses to accept that a Member State can “do whatever it wants” when it is within a community in which it not only shares a “single market” but, above all, “common fundamental values”, including the separation of powers, freedom of the press and non-discrimination, those that Poland wants to jump to the bullfighting.

We have reached a very dangerous point. What is now in danger is the credibility of the entire Union

“In several countries we have reached a very dangerous point, but the problems already go beyond each country. What is now in danger is the credibility of the entire Union ”, warns Verhofstadt, who speaks of“ countries ”in the plural because Poland has a faithful squire within the EU, Hungary, with whom it goes hand in hand in its authoritarian drift moving further away from Europe.

The ‘Polexit’, a real fear in Poland

The hypothetical exit of Poland from the EU already has a name: “Polexit”, inspired by the already coined and carried out Brexit, explains Sylwia Nowosinska, a Polish journalist for the daily Fact 24. She is this weekend in Strasbourg, but without disconnecting at all from what is happening in her country. The news of the judicial insurrection, which Nowosinska admits to having caught her “by surprise”, goes through the Polish networks and media, where a large protest against the Government has already been announced for this Sunday in Warsaw.

Despite the fact that, according to surveys, 80% of Poles support membership of the European UnionNowosinska is not very sure that the protests will be massive or will take effect. “I don’t know if the general population really understands the seriousness of the matter,” he says. “This may mean not only the blocking of funds from the recovery plan, but it may also be the first step of ‘Polexit’,” warns the journalist.

The situation is dire. It is the first time that this has happened in the history of the EU and, if it did, it would probably make it unfeasibleJaume Duch

Jaume DuchDirector General of Communication of the European Parliament, confirms the concern of this Polish woman. “The situation is serious. It is the first time in the history of the EU that a court of a Member State decides that national legislation takes precedence over Community legislation ”, he points out. “And if that were true, we would be weakening the EU and probably making it unviable,” adds Duch.

The Director General of Communication explains that one of the basic principles of the functioning of the EU is that “Community law prevails over national law”. “If not, we would become a kind of United Nations of Europe, but here integration prevails, and having a common legal and legal framework,” he highlights.

Press freedom at risk

Meanwhile, Sylwia Nowosinska responds quickly to questions from The HuffPost, unable to hide that the subject worries her doubly, as a Pole and as a journalist. “People do not believe that the Government is going to take all the steps to get us out of democracy, but first they changed abortion laws, then they began to skip the Constitution … with each step they take, they move further away from democracy, “he says.

Genevieve ENGEL

Detail of one of the participants in the EYE 2021.

And this also carries over to your work. “The government has tried twice to cut freedom of the press,” Nowosinska says. “The first time was with taxes on the media after the coronavirus,” before which his newspaper and other media protested by not publishing news for hours. “The second time was when the Government tried to change the law so that the main private television channels could not work,” says the journalist. “In the end, the law did not go ahead, but we are sure that as soon as they find another opportunity, they will,” he laments.

People do not believe that the Government is going to get us out of democracy, but first they changed the abortion laws, then they began to bypass the Constitution … with each step they take, we move further awaySylwia Nowosinska

Nowosinska doesn’t have much hope for change in her country, at least in the near future. Although she clearly sees the danger of the path that Poland is taking, she feels that, somehow, she lives “in a bubble”. “I live in a big city, I have higher education… for people who live in small towns and watch TV, controlled by the Government, or for people who need social assistance from the Government to live, whether there is democracy or not they are concerned little, the same as the Constitution, freedom of the press or LGTBI rights. It is not their biggest problem ”, reflects the journalist. In this context, populist measures have a better impact.

“It is not possible to expel a member country, but there are other mechanisms”

Europe also sees no intention of change in the attitude of Poland. Brussels has announced that it will use “everybody [sus] powers”To face the Polish crap, but he hasn’t made a move yet. Jaume Duch explains that “there is no possibility of expelling a member country, but there are different mechanisms, ranging from freezing funds to activating Article 7, which would temporarily deprive them of the right to vote.” For now, the European Commission has postponed the delivery of the 36,000 million euros that correspond to Poland as part of the recovery funds for the covid.


Jaume Duch

Jaume Duch insists that Europe “cannot let go” of what Poland is proposing – that national law prevails over community law – simply because it would contravene one of the basic principles of the Union. However, Parliament’s Director of Communication pulls diplomacy to answer the question ‘what should the EU do then?’. “If Poland crosses this line, the EU institutions will have to seriously discuss it, but that is not negotiable,” says Duch.

The Commission does not have the guts to use the sanction mechanismsGuy Verhofstadt

For his part, Guy Verhofstadt has long put diplomacy aside to talk about this issue. “We have mechanisms to stop this, but the Commission does not have the guts to use them,” he says. Verhofstadt refers, for example, to apply the famous article 7, something that would finally have to be approved by the leaders of each member country in the EU Council.

Taking into account the difficulty of this going ahead – among other things, because Hungary would foreseeably vote against -, Verhofstadt proposes to “polish the system” so that other institutions can apply these sanctions, and that it not only depends “on Member States” that they are “colleagues”.

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