Leaders demand that Europe must not be ‘the sleeping giant under the bed’
German and French leaders have vented their anger at the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, for threatening to take Poland to court over its judicial reform.
Poland has been hit by repeated accusations that it is undermining democracy and the rule of law since taking power in 2015, with critical rulings on its justice system and constitutional court.
The prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, this week issued a strong warning against what he called an “anti-Polish onslaught”, accusing Germany and other EU member states of trying to punish his government and head off its push to liberalise the economy.
Juncker sparked a diplomatic row with Poland in November when he threatened to take Warsaw to court over its reforms of the judiciary.
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When asked on Thursday how the EU could resolve its dispute with Poland, Merkel said: “That’s the question all EU leaders know.” Merkel said the EU can ensure that the rule of law is respected in Poland and other countries.
French president Emmanuel Macron was equally blunt, using his opening remarks at a summit meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to denounce Poland’s recent attempts to change the country’s constitution.
“I am deeply convinced that we cannot talk about Europe and keep it at arms length, and by arms length I mean keeping it hidden behind economic and monetary integration,” Macron said.
“We cannot keep Europe as the sleeping giant under the bed. We have to be proud Europeans and let it show.”
Top judges in Poland have accused the government of favouring ruling party allies in appointing judges, though the judiciary has been nominally independent since Poland’s 1989 revolution.
In March, Morawiecki lashed out at Germany, saying the country was acting more like China than the rest of the EU, as shown by the number of EU institutions it had built since the 1950s.
The criticism prompted a rebuke from Merkel, who said Poland was not engaged in an “anti-Polish onslaught”.
Last weekend, about 100,000 Poles demonstrated against the rule of law crisis in Warsaw and three other cities, calling for Morawiecki to resign, with senior EU officials also issuing warnings.
Macron defended the judiciary commission’s decision to open an investigation into Morawiecki, saying that France was not turning a blind eye to a crisis but that Europe should not just allow states to fail and have their finger pointed at them for when they do.
“This is a real fight for the soul of Europe, a true European fight … for the destiny of Europe,” the French president said.
“I have travelled to Auschwitz every year since being president of the Republic. We must remember them.”