Polandâ€™s new leaders are eroding the countryâ€™s democratic record through laws that give the government new powers, three U.S. senators said in a letter to Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
The dispatch by Senators John McCain, Benjamin Cardin and Richard Durbin follows an unprecedented move by the European Unionâ€™s executive last month to start a probe into whether rule of law is under threat in Poland. After winning an October general election, the Law & Justice party overhauled the countryâ€™s constitutional tribunal, making it more difficult for justices to overturn laws. It also placed public media and prosecutors under direct government control, fueling concerns that it was dismantling the system of checks and balances upholding the nationâ€™s democracy. â€œWe are writing to express concern about recent actions taken by the Polish government that threaten the independence of state media and the nationâ€™s highest court, and undermine Polandâ€™s role as a democratic model for other countries in the region still going through difficult transitions,â€ the senators wrote in the letter, dated Feb. 10.
While Law & Justice pledged to take Poland out of the EU mainstream and has cooled relations with power broker Germany, the criticism is troubling because the new government is counting on the U.S. to shore up its security as part of the NATO alliance. The partyâ€™s power grab also contributed to Polandâ€™s first ever credit-rating downgrade last month, with Standard & Poorâ€™s expressing concern about the independence of institutions under the new administration.
Szydlo replied by saying the senatorsâ€™ comments are â€œsurprisingâ€ and result of a â€œlack of accurate informationâ€ about the latest events in Poland, according to wPolityce.pl website. The government has long said the changes itâ€™s implementing are those Poles voted for in last yearâ€™s election and itâ€™s not breaking any laws.
The letter was inspired by â€œpeople who donâ€™t wish Poland well,â€ Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told reporters in Brussels when asked about the issue. Waszczykowski said last month that heâ€™s seeking to resume talks with the U.S. on developing a missile-defense system in Poland, a NATO member from 1999.
Law & Justice, which won both presidential and parliamentary elections last year, is also on a collision course with Brussels. The biggest beneficiary of the EU budget, Poland opposes taking in migrants beyond the roughly 7,000 agreed by Polandâ€™s previous government and refuses to reduce reliance on its coal industry, which runs foul of EU carbon-emissions norms.
â€œAn erosion of democracy in Poland would undermine liberal institutions that have successfully expanded prosperity, peace, stability and tolerance within Europe at a time when these institutions are greatly needed,â€ the senators wrote.