European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans hit back Sunday at accusations of political bias from Poland’s right-wing government, as he campaigned as a Socialist candidate for May’s European elections.
In his commission role on Wednesday Timmermans announced fresh action against Poland over its controversial judicial reforms, saying a new disciplinary regime for judges would have a “chilling effect” on judicial independence.
On Thursday, Jaroslaw Sellin, a deputy culture minister in Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government, accused Timmermans of playing politics by launching the new infringement procedure ahead of the May 26 European vote in Poland.
But Timmermans dismissed the accusations in comments to reporters in Warsaw Sunday.
“There is no link whatsoever even though the Polish government pretends this is linked to the elections,” he said. “This has nothing to do with the election.”
He was speaking at a joint press conference with Robert Biedron, the leader of Poland’s new progressive Spring party at a campaign event for the European ballot.
“It is clear from all evidence that the way the new disciplinary measures work, it has a chilling effect on Polish judges, so it intimidates them,” Timmermans added.
The new infringement procedure is the latest round of the bitter tussle between Brussels and the PiS government in Warsaw.
Poland has been at loggerheads with the bloc over the sweeping reforms its government insists are needed to tackle corruption and overhaul a judicial system still haunted by the communist era.
The EU has already launched unprecedented proceedings against Poland over “systemic threats” to the rule of law that could see its EU voting rights suspended.
On Thursday, Sellin said of Timmermans: “He has a political interest in it because he is in the heat of the election campaign,” the Polish PAP news agency reported.
“He wants to be the chief European commissioner on behalf of the socialists, he fights for this position and wants to renew his mandate.”
An IBRIS poll on the European ballot published Friday put the ruling PiS ahead with 39 percent compared to 36.5 percent support for the European Coalition, an alliance of liberal, centre-right and leftist opposition parties.