The Corner

National Security & Defense

EU to ‘Audit’ Poland?

Poland elected a new conservative (and somewhat euroskeptic) government last year. Law and Justice became the first party to win an absolute majority in the parliament since the end of communism.

It was a result that appalled many Polish liberals (in both senses of that disputed word) and, critically, much of the EU’s political establishment. The rights and wrongs (the latter certainly exist) of Law and Justice—and some of the steps that the party has taken since taking office— make for a more complicated debate than the Brussels narrative suggests, but this should above all be a debate for Poles (and judging by some very large demonstrations in Warsaw, it is a debate that is well underway).

If this report is accurate, Brussels may disagree.

Politico:

The European Commission is set to launch an audit of Poland’s adherence to the rule of law next week, focusing on the government’s much-criticized crackdown on judicial independence.

German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported Sunday that the Commission will investigate changes to Poland’s constitutional court. Sources told the FAZ that Commission chiefs of staff described the situation in the court as unbearable in their Friday meeting, referring to President Andrzej Duda’s failure to swear in three judges whose election was approved by the Constitutional Tribunal and instead swearing in five judges chosen by the current parliament.

The Commission is set to launch its investigation on Wednesday, to be led by First Vice President Frans Timmermans, whose dossier includes issues related to the rule of law. This would be the first time the Commission would use this type of audit procedure since it was adopted in 2014.

That would be the unelected Frans Timmermans….

Back to Politico:

Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister, sent a bristling letter Saturday to Günther Oettinger, the German digital economy commissioner who had raised questions about the new Polish media law which tightens the government’s control over public radio and television. The commissioner threatened to activate the bloc’s ‘Rule of Law mechanism’ and to place Warsaw under monitoring.

“These type of words, spoken by a German politician, create the worst possible connotations among Poles,” Ziobro wrote. “Also for me, as the grandson of a Polish officer who during the Second World War fought in the underground Home Army against ‘German Oversight.’”

Ziobro went on to criticize the German media’s tentative approach to the sexual attacks in Cologne over New Year’s, saying their caution “stunned the world.”

“I came to the sad conclusion that it’s easier for you to talk about fictitious dangers to the freedom of the press in other countries that than denounce censorship in your own homeland,” Ziobro wrote.

Ouch.

Oettinger, no friend of freedom and a member of Angela’s Merkel CDU, is, of course, another unelected official.

And, yes, if the EU does presume to intervene it will stir up some very uncomfortable historical memories.

Take a look at this magazine cover if you don’t believe me. 

Update

If we’re talking about media freedom, it’s might be worth including this snippet from a CNBC story that ran last September:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overheard confronting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over incendiary posts on the social network, Bloomberg reported on Sunday, amid complaints from her government about anti-immigrant posts in the midst of Europe’s refugee crisis.

On the sidelines of a United Nations luncheon on Saturday, Merkel was caught on a hot mic pressing Zuckerberg about social media posts about the wave of Syrian refugees entering Germany, the publication reported.

The Facebook CEO was overheard responding that “we need to do some work” on curtailing anti-immigrant posts about the refugee crisis. “Are you working on this?” Merkel asked in English, to which Zuckerberg replied in the affirmative before the transmission was disrupted….

 

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