Jaroslaw Kaczynski Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

Defending Liberal Democracy in Poland

Poland's current government is pushing the country deeper into a constitutional crisis, weakening its democratic institutions, and cracking down on civil society. It's time for the EU to stop hoping that the situation will resolve itself and start defending liberal democracy in the heart of Europe, before it's too late.

BRUSSELS – Since coming to power in 2015, Poland’s populist Law and Justice (PiS) party has launched a systemic assault on the country’s liberal-democratic institutions. The PiS government has undermined the Polish Constitutional Court and relentlessly attacked the independence of the judiciary, while taking steps to muzzle the press.

The European Union has launched a rule-of-law procedure against the Polish government, under a framework aimed at heading off the imposition of sanctions. So far, however, attempts to contain and reverse the PiS’s increasingly authoritarian polices have failed. With government officials in Warsaw evidently betting that the EU will lack the political will to follow through with credible sanctions, an uneasy stalemate has ensued.

Relations between the Polish government and the EU soured further at the European Council’s meeting in Brussels earlier this month. Against the backdrop of pivotal national elections in Europe this year, the United Kingdom’s impending withdrawal from the bloc, an uncertain relationship with US President Donald Trump’s new administration, and the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, summit delegates had planned to discuss the EU’s future.

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