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Poland scents victory over Brussels in court tussle

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Poland’s government is confident of victory in its power struggle with Brussels, as it stands just a month away from taking political control of the country’s highest court in defiance of EU warnings, Financial Times reported.

Emboldened by votes for Brexit and Donald Trump, the rightwing nationalist administration in Poland believes it is close to outmanoeuvring the European Commission in a bellwether case that exposes the weaknesses of the EU’s oversight of democratic standards.

The ruling Law and Justice party, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has for a year ignored the commission’s increasingly threatening demands to roll back reforms that in effect neuter the country’s constitutional tribunal, a court designed to check parliamentary power.

The defiant stance has come despite the commission’s threats of sanctions and its unprecedented decision to accuse Warsaw of endangering democracy, which some EU officials fear will be found to be toothless.

“As far as we are concerned, there is no procedure,” said a senior Polish diplomat in reference to the “rule of law” measures brought against the country. “We want to fix this problem by ourselves. There is almost no one in Warsaw who will listen to what the commission wants to say.

“We should not be triumphalist … but I do not expect any developments,” he added, echoing comments by other senior officials.

The EU has faced a dilemma over how to respond to Poland. The commission relies on member state support for its warnings to carry weight.

Yet Poland’s ally Hungary will block any action, and Germany and other big countries are unwilling to intervene for fear it would achieve nothing but sour relations with Warsaw. Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission president, has hinted that proposing sanctions would be pointless “because some member states are already saying they will refuse to invoke it”.

The political drift has given the Warsaw government space to achieve its goals. The expiry of the court chairman’s term on December 19 will allow it to install its own nominee and raise the number of government-friendly judges on the bench.

“It is pretty inevitable that by 19 December they will have control of the constitutional tribunal … I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” said a senior EU diplomat involved in the issue.


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