Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has questioned the membership of Poland in the European Union following changes to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal, which supposedly weakened rule of law in the country. The current ruling party, the Law and Justice Party, has rejected the liberal-leaning policies of the European Union in favor of more traditional values. Poland argues that changes made to the Constitutional Tribunal have actually strengthened rule of law.
Russia Today reports that in late February, Asselborn told Der Tagesspiegel, a German daily newspaper, “Today’s Poland under Jaroslaw Kaczynski could no longer become a[n]EU member,” in reference to the changes being made by the right-wing Law and Justice Party. According to Luxemburger Wort, he further stated that Poland “no longer respects the Copenhagen [C]riteria that the country had to meet before EU ascension.”
The Copenhagen Criteria, according to euABC.com, are a set of standards established by the EU that states must meet in order to be admitted as members. Rule of law features prominently among the standards, which ensures that each member is a fully-functioning democracy.
Bloomberg News reports that since its ascension to power in the 2015 Polish elections, the Law and Justice Party has made sweeping changes to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal. However, Poland’s highest court has deemed these changes unconstitutional. The government has also fired journalists from state-run media and pushed for the news sources to be less critical of its policies. In a release on February 20, Bloomberg News reported that Warsaw stated that “the current political argument around the Constitutional Tribunal can’t be the basis of claiming that the rule of law is threatened in Poland.”
In December 2016, Russia Today reported that some EU members suggested that Poland be stripped of its voting rights until the problem is resolved. However, any move appears extremely unlikely, as the proposal would need ratification from all other EU member states. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, one of the Law and Justice Party’s most important allies, has indicated that his country will not support such a move.
Asselborn has not shied away from criticizing fellow EU member states in the past. Luxemburger Wort said that he previously gave remarks condemning Hungary’s violation of the “core values” of democracy for Budapest’s treatment of refugees as “animals.”
The Polish government has become increasingly difficult to work with in the European Union, which often prides itself on consensus, according to The Economist. On March 9, Poland was the only one of the 28 member states to vote against the re-election of Donald Tusk as head of the European Council. This departure from consensus has been further exacerbated by Poland’s energy and climate policies, which are drifting further away from their European counterparts, and amid stymied preparations for the upcoming EU summit in Rome on March 25.