Senior EU official hopes for solution to row with Warsaw

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said on Thursday after meeting Poland’s foreign minister that he hopes a solution will be found within weeks or months to a dispute between Brussels and Warsaw over contested reforms.

Timmermans said his talks in Brussels with Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz were held in a “very good” atmosphere.

Czaputowicz was later on Thursday to hold talks with Europe’s Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova.

Jourova said last month that Brussels was working on a way of making pay-outs of all EU funds conditional on member states having an efficient judicial system and upholding the rule of law.

The European Commission in December took the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, stepping up pressure on Warsaw over controversial changes to the judicial system by the country’s ruling conservatives.

Rule of law

The move means that the EU’s executive wants the bloc’s member states to declare that the rule of law in Poland is under threat.

The move could pave the way for sanctions being imposed on Poland, for example suspending its voting rights in the European Union. But penalties on Warsaw would have to be backed unanimously by EU member states, while Hungary has said it would not support sanctions.

Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system tainted by the communist past, accusing judges of being a self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.

But opponents have accused Law and Justice of aiming to stack courts with its own candidates and to dismantle the rule of law.

While in Brussels, Czaputowicz also held talks on Thursday with the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini about security in eastern and southern Europe and about a new EU strategy for the western Balkans.

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