E.U.’s democratic values ‘up for grabs’ in Poland


Poland’s alleged slide from democracy came under scrutiny from fellow European Union states on Tuesday, with some openly questioning the nationalist government in Warsaw’s commitment to EU values, Reuters reports:

The Law and Justice government has rejected criticism from Brussels and decried what it says is an unacceptable interference in domestic affairs. The party promotes a mix of conservative social values, high social spending and active state engagement in the economy, with euroscepticism and deep mistrust of its two powerful neighbours – Germany and Russia.

Since coming to power, it has put the judiciary and public media under more political control, triggering alarm from political opponents and rights groups that it is infringing on basic rights and liberties.

Poland is violating the EU’s core principle of solidarity, Roger Cohen writes for The New York Times, calling for A New Yalta and the Revival of Europe:

[T]he free ride of countries like Hungary and Poland that benefit from vast European Union financial transfers but flout European values through their growing autocratic tendencies must be stopped. It’s simple: no free money without a free press and an independent judiciary.

Polish political discourse is also being contaminated by anti-Semitic tropes, observers suggest.

Krystyna Pawlowicz, a lawmaker with the ruling conservatives in Poland, recently called George Soros the “most dangerous man in the world” on Radio Maryja, a Catholic broadcaster, adding that his foundations “finance anti-Christian and anti-national activities,” AP reports:

Sociologists see such rhetoric, which gives Soros almost supernatural abilities to destroy traditional societies, as a modern manifestation of old anti-Semitic conspiracies amid new populist rage against elites and the European Union.

“It’s a witch hunt that is being promoted by authoritarian right-wing populists,” said Jacek Kucharczyk, a sociologist and director of the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw.

“And there is an undertone of anti-Semitism behind it. Because he promotes liberal values, has a Jewish background and is a billionaire, he is the perfect figure for explaining to hard-core voters why the world is the way it is,” he said.

Both Poland and Hungary appear determined to pursue their own nationalist agendas and power politics even if they clash with E.U. values, according to Carnegie analyst Judy Dempsey.

“It seems to me that all the values that the E.U. stands for are up for grabs,” said the IPA’s Kucharczyk. “Just look at the backsliding taking place in Poland and Hungary. And what is Brussels doing? It’s toothless. It doesn’t even defend its own values at home.”

The Institute of Public Affairs is a member of the National Endowment for Democracy’s Network of Democracy Research Institutes (NDRI).

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