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Commission kicks Poland problem to national capitals

General Affairs Council will discuss Poland and the rule of law at a meeting later in the month. Poland’s compliance or otherwise with the rule of law will be put before national ministers later this month after the European Commission decided to pass the issue to member countries, according to several EU officials, Politico reports.

One national diplomat said the Commission was “kicking the ball into our court” by handing it over to the General Affairs Council — made up of EU affairs and foreign ministers. Officials said the Commission asked the member countries to put the item on the agenda during a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday, and the Maltese government, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, agreed. At the meeting “nobody intervened” after the Commission made the request, two diplomats said.

A debate on Poland is not mentioned as a main talking point in the provisional agenda for the General Affairs Council’s May 16 meeting, but is in the “any other business” category. That sets up a potentially awkward debate as Poland will be in the room when the debate takes place.

For months the Polish government has been facing down Brussels, which has criticized the ruling Law and Justice party’s changes to the running of the country’s highest court and to media laws.

Yet as in theory the Commission is only supposed to provide an update on the situation, there could be no debate at the May 16 meeting, a diplomat said.

The Commission wants to gauge the mood in the member countries before deciding whether to take any other steps against Warsaw, which could include taking the issue to the level of EU leaders, said another diplomat. He said the decision to involve the General Affairs Council was provisionally taken in February but was delayed to wait until Donald Tusk — a former Polish prime minister — was confirmed for another term as president of the European Council. Warsaw vehemently opposed Tusk’s reappointment but was isolated in its objections.

The decision on Poland comes as tension rises over how to deal with another troublemaker, Hungary. The Commission last week threatened legal action over an education bill that targets the George Soros-funded Central European University.

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