Poland ignores deadline for replying to EU criticism

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland will not meet the European Union’s deadline of Wednesday to respond to concerns about the country’s political crisis, the government spokesman said.

The European Commission earlier this month wrote to Poland criticizing the conservative government’s actions concerning the composition and functioning of the Constitutional Tribunal, and set Wednesday as the deadline for response.

The letter of some 20 pages was considered a warning for a recalcitrant EU member to address the criticism and prevent more serious steps from being taken, such as stripping Poland of its EU voting rights.

But government spokesman Rafal Bochenek said Wednesday a reply should not be expected immediately.

Bochenek told The Associated Press that a reply will be offered at a time when it is possible to show progress in the ongoing efforts by lawmakers to solve the internal conflict surrounding the tribunal. The lawmakers are working on three different proposals for a solution, and a report on their work is to be published by early July.

The EU is concerned that the Polish government refuses to accept the appointment of some new judges to the tribunal and insists on appointing those of its own choice. It is concerned that the government, which took power in November, has adopted new rules for the appointment of judges and refuses to publish and implement some of the tribunal’s rulings.

The government’s actions have led to massive street protests within Poland, as well as censure from the EU and a European body of constitutional law experts.

Bochenek would not set any date for a response to the commission, but stressed that Poland wants to maintain dialogue and mutual trust with the Commission.

Head of the ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that the EU’s “rule of law” procedure is not included in any treaties and places no obligations on Poland. Kaczynski has made it a point of his policy to stress that Poland is a sovereign country and is not dependent on decisions taken in Brussels, the EU headquarters.

“It is only an act of our good will that we respond” to the procedure, Kaczynski said.

If it fails to convince the commission that it is abiding by the key principles, Poland could face the first-ever sanctions against any EU member under the new “rule of law” procedure.