Poland responds to EU on sanctions


Warsaw (AFP)

Poland's governing conservatives said they have met Tuesday's deadline to answer the European Union's concerns about Warsaw's judicial reforms or risk never-used-before sanctions.

Brussels on December 20 launched unprecedented legal action against Warsaw over "systemic threats" to the independence of the Polish judiciary, and gave it three months to say how it will comply.

Poland's foreign ministry said in a statement that it had "presented explanations regarding the European Commission's objections".

The reform of the judiciary "meets the public's expectations and the solutions do not differ from those adopted in other EU members," it added.

"Poland affirms its commitment to resolve the dispute with the Commission effectively and has declared its willingness to continue talks in order to find a mutually satisfying solution."

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans had earlier Tuesday urged Poland to meet the deadline.

"The Polish have time until the end of today to come with their response. I do expect them to do that," he told a press conference after EU ministers discussed the issue.

Timmermans said the Commission -- the executive arm and enforcer of the 28-nation EU -- will analyse the response before ministers meet again next month to assess whether "steps forward were made or not."

The stakes are high if Warsaw fails to satisfy Brussels.

It could be stripped of voting rights in the bloc under the Article 7 procedure of the EU treaty -- covering systemic threats to the rule of law -- which had never been previously used against an EU state.

However, Poland's ally Hungary, which has also clashed with Brussels over democracy issues, has vowed to veto any sanction.

Earlier this month, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki gave the Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker a 96-page white paper regarding the court reforms.

He said his government expected a "deep and serious analysis" of the document.

The Dutch commissioner said the ministers agreed Tuesday that the white paper "was not the answer" to European concerns.

"This is a white paper stating again Polish positions," Timmermans said.

The Polish document warned sanctions could create a "dangerous precedent" for undermining the sovereignty of EU member states.

It could also lead to "a possible strengthening of anti-European sentiment that has been more and more apparent," it added.