Polish leader hails summit deal on use of EU sanctions

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s conservative ruling party leader says the compromise struck at last week’s European Union summit that limits the use of financial sanctions is a “saber” protecting the country against any potential “attack” on the EU’s part.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in comments published Monday that the compromise struck as part of the 1.82 trillion-euro ($2.21 trillion) budget for 2021-2027 and recovery package protects Poland’s national interests and secures the country’s share in EU funds that it badly needs for a rebound from the pandemic crisis.

Under the deal, the EU is to draw up precise guidelines for when a new financial mechanism can be used to cut funds to a member that violates democratic standards, and what might trigger it. Moreover, Europe’s top court would need to weigh in on the guidelines’ validity.

The “deal is like a saber that we will be able to use in case of an attack against us,” Kaczynski was quoted as saying by Polish state news agency PAP, in an interview with the Gazeta Polska Codziennie conservative daily.

Poland, which is at loggerheads with Brussels over its record on the rule of law, had together with Hungary protested the sanctioning mechanism fearing they could be its target.

The compromise Thursday averted a veto that Poland and Hungary had threatened against the package, but critics said it also let the two countries off the hook.

Kaczynski, the main architect of Poland’s politics, argued the compromise secured Poland’s sovereignty and position in the bloc and strengthened its budget.

Poland is to receive some 770 billion zlotys (173 billion euros.)

Minister for European Affairs Konrad Szymanski told the Rzeczpospolita daily the deal would prevent “arbitrary, political” use of the withdrawal of financing as a means of putting pressure on a member state.

“This is an extraordinary situation that has been solved with extraordinary measures,” he said.

Almost from when Kaczynski’s right-wing Law and Justice party took power in 2015, the government has been in conflict with EU ruling bodies over its gradual taking of control over Poland’s justice system and media. Warsaw has argued the criticism missed the point and the sanctioning measures taken were unfair.

The government is currently facing a wave of massive nationwide protests that was triggered by a recent court ruling to further tighten Poland’s strict anti-abortion law but is now also condemning other decisions by the ruling team, including the conflict with the EU.