U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concern on Friday over Poland’s moves to shackle its constitutional court, in unusually blunt comments calling on the former communist EU country’s government to do more to protect democracy, Reuters reports:
Speaking alongside President Andrzej Duda after they met at a NATO summit in Warsaw, Obama said the ruling conservatives had taken some steps to address U.S. and European concerns but more should be done. Duda did not respond…. Critics say the government’s changes to the constitutional tribunal undermine democratic standards and are part of a broader push to seize more control over state institutions, charges the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party denies….Speaking to reporters with Duda at his side, Obama said an independent judiciary was the backbone of democracy.
“I expressed to President Duda our concerns over certain actions, and the impasse over Poland’s constitutional tribunal,” Obama told reporters. “I insisted that we are very respectful of Poland’s sovereignty and I recognise that parliament is working on legislation to take some important steps, but more work needs to be done,” the U.S. leader said.
“As your friend and ally we urged all parties to work together to sustain Poland’s democratic institutions,” he said.
Last month, the European Commission formally censured the Polish government for subverting the rule of law by changing the makeup and procedures of the country’s constitutional court, The New York Times adds. The government has also tightened control over state media to ensure that it echoes Law and Justice’s nationalist, conservative message. More than 160 employees of state television, including prominent news anchors and reporters, have been fired or forced out.
In his second tenure as prime minister, Viktor Orbán also appears to have decided that illiberal democracy is the best model for Hungary, and that a middle ground between East and West is the best way to advance his country’s nationalist interests, notes Jeffrey Gedmin, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Similar tendencies persist across the region, he writes for Politico:
Countries like Romania and Bulgaria are plagued by weak party systems, corruption and kleptocracy. Russia will continue to encourage and manipulate these problems. But it did not create them. The only way ultimately to rob the Kremlin of its opportunity to wreak havoc on Europe is for the West to get back to the patient, long-term work of promoting and assisting democracy.
In about three weeks, Pope Francis will head to Krakow for World Youth Day, writes NRO editor-at-large Kathryn Jean Lopez.
“Krakow experienced the worst of the 20th century — Nazism and communism,” said EPPC Distinguished Senior Fellow George Weigel (above, right), a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, who has written a new book, City of Saints, about the city. RTWT