Leader says Poland wants to be in EU, but remain sovereign

·3 min read

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's most powerful politician says the country's future is in the European Union and that there will be “no Polexit,” but that Poland at the same time wishes to remain a “sovereign” country.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is the head of the governing conservative Law and Justice party and Poland's chief policy maker, made his comments in an interview with state news agency PAP that was published Wednesday.

It seemed to be a reaction to some harsh comments last week about the 27-member bloc from some key members of his party which led many opposition politicians to accuse Poland's leadership of seeking to take the country out of the EU.

Some political observers in Poland, where support for EU membership is very high, also fear that harsh comments about the EU could put Poland on a path to leaving the bloc by accident.

Donald Tusk, leader of the Civic Platform main opposition party, said last week that “catastrophes” like Brexit often happen not because they were planned but because people didn't plan a wise alternative.

But Kaczynski told PAP that Poland won't follow Britain's example and won't leave the EU.

“There will be no Polexit. It’s a propaganda invention that has been used many times against us,” said Kaczynski, who is also a deputy prime minister. “We unequivocally see the future of Poland in the European Union.”

His insistence on Poland's EU membership, but with sovereign powers, was reinforced by a similarly-worded special resolution that the ruling party's leaders adopted just hours later.

Last week, two high-ranking Law and Justice officials made strong comments about the EU after the bloc moved to punish Poland financially for actions that increase the governing party’s control over the judiciary. Brussels says they violate the rule of law.

Ryszard Terlecki, the party's deputy leader, said that if things don't go the way Poland likes, “we will have to search for drastic solutions.”

"The British showed that the dictatorship of the Brussels bureaucracy did not suit them and turned around and left,” he said.

Marek Suski, another leading party member, said that Poland “will fight the Brussels occupier” just as it fought the Nazis and Soviets in the past.

Suski added: “Brussels sends us overlords who are supposed to bring Poland to order, to put us on our knees, so that we might be a German state, and not a proud state of free Poles.”

Tusk, the opposition leader, said last week that “such rhetoric, comparing ... the European Union to the Soviet Union or the Nazi occupation, such words are not without effect."

"They do not go unpunished. They are ruinous for our reputation in Europe,” added Tusk, a former leader of the European Council.

Poland accuses the EU of infringing on its sovereignty by opposing changes to the country’s judicial system introduced by the government.

Kaczynski argued that rule of law is an area of responsibility for the member states alone, and “cannot be the subject of the type of interference that is currently occurring.”

In his opinion, member states aren't being treated equally, which goes against the bloc's principles.

“We want to be in the (European) Union, but at the same time we want to remain a sovereign state,” he said. “We want what was agreed in the treaties to be very strictly observed.”

The EU, however, argues that because the bloc's legal order is integrated, it is essential to protect the independence of courts in each member state.

Wednesday's statements from Poland came on the day European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a State of the European Union speech in European Parliament, setting ambitious goals for the bloc's future.

Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press

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