BRUSSELS (NWN) – Founding member of the European Union Belgium warned Poland on Wednesday not to treat the EU as an “ATM” to boost its economic fortune, while arbitrarily ignoring its democratic and rule of law principles.
“You cannot put all the money in your pocket, but you will give up the values,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the inauguration of the College of Bruges, an academic base for European thinkers.
De Croo targeted Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who accused the EU of threatening a “Third World War” for insisting that Poland respect the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law of the EU. The Prime Minister of Belgium said that his Polish counterpart “is playing with fire, waging a war with your European colleagues for internal political reasons.”
The comments follow years of controversy over the changes the Polish government has made to the country’s courts. The EU believes these changes are undermining democratic systems of checks and balances, and the European Commission is withholding billions of euros for Poland earmarked for a post-pandemic recovery plan.
The war of words followed the EU summit, at which Poland’s arguments that the country’s fundamental changes to the judiciary would not undermine the EU did not convince the bloc’s key leaders.
Among them was French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda on Wednesday.
Morawiecki’s defiance crystallized in an interview with the Financial Times over the weekend. When asked if Poland could use its veto to block legislation in response, for example, on climate issues, Morawiecki said: “If they start World War III, we will defend our rights with whatever weapon we have at our disposal.” …
Morawiecki’s European colleagues did not like the interview. “You are playing a dangerous game,” De Croo said.
“We are talking about the overwhelming majority of member states – from the Baltic states to Portugal – that agree that our Union is a union of values, not an ATM,” said De Croo, referring to the fact that Poland has long been a a large net recipient of EU funds.
Poland’s nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, has been in conflict with Brussels since coming to power in 2015 over a range of issues, including migration and LGBT rights. However, the longest-running controversy revolved around the Polish government’s attempts to establish political control over the judiciary.
The case came to a head earlier this month when the constitutional court ruled that some key provisions of EU law were incompatible with the country’s constitution. The court’s ruling, filled by supporters of the ruling party, came after Morawiecki asked him to decide whether EU or national law is a priority.