20 January 2017
In a debate in the European Parliament on the current situation in Poland, following the European Commission’s decision to launch a ‘Rule of Law’ investigation, ECR Group leader Syed Kamall asked other MEPs to take a step back and allow the European Commission and Council of Europe’s Venice to conduct their work.
Speaking in the presence of Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło, Syed Kamall said:
“As we assemble here today I see MEPs chomping at the bit to lay into the new Polish government.
But before you unleash your volley of words, let me make a plea for everyone to take a step back.
To allow the European Commission and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe to work with the Polish government to address the concerns that have been expressed.
Having spoken to Polish MEPs, Ministers and the Prime Minister today, it is clear that they have no intention of undermining pluralism and the rule of law in Poland.
When the last government passed a law to stuff the Constitutional Court with their nominees before they left office. Why did no-one here complain then?
Why the sudden complaints when the new government seeks to appoint only 5 out of 15 judges?
We should welcome the constructive talks that President Duda has held with the Court’s president.
We should welcome the Polish government inviting the Venice Commission to give its opinion.
We should welcome the new government’s separation between the regulator and the broadcaster.
But when the new government tries to bring its practices in line with other countries, with EU laws it is accused of political interference in the media.
When I worked on the Audio Visual Media Services directive, I was shocked by the number of MEPs, particularly from one member state, from Germany who sat on the boards of public broadcasters.
Ignoring the obvious conflict of interest.
In this chamber, there are former national politicians who would phone editors of newspapers or TV stations complaining about journalists leading some to be sacked.
If you decide to gang up on the democratically Polish government today you will also be pointing fingers at the people who voted for that government.
So don’t be surprised if the Polish people respond by electing more eurosceptic politicians as in Hungary, Italy and France.
In this climate, I appeal to be very careful about your choice of words.
When Mr Berlusconi came to this parliament and made comments linking Mr Schulz to Germany’s National Socialist past, many were offended.
So I ask you to consider the reaction when a German politician
goes on the media to talk about elements of a coup in Poland and comparing the Polish government to Vladimir Putin.
You must realise just how offensive that is to the Polish people. Who had to endure Russian imperialism, who had to endure German national socialism, who had to endure Soviet Socialism.
So let us in this house focus on the real crises facing the EU: migration, eurozone, low growth, and let us allow the Polish government to work constructively with the European Commission and the Venice Commission to reach conclusions based on facts and fairness.
Given the historic suffering of the Polish people at the hands of tyranny and their noble fight for liberation from their oppressors,
I have no doubt that the new Polish Government will cooperate with all those who wish to cooperate with them to ensure Poland reinforces the Freedom the Pluralism and the Democracy for which the Polish people fought for so long.”
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