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.
But the talks were overshadowed by a last-minute Polish government request, issued at the behest of PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński, that former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk be replaced as President of the European Council.