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In an interview with the right-wing daily „Gazeta Polska Codziennie”, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jarosław Kaczyński, was asked about the „serious battle with those in the EU who want to impose their values on us, or even subjugate us”. – I will call these actions what they are: what we’re seeing here is an effort to take away our sovereignty, even in the sphere of culture- Kaczyński commented.

Speaking of Poland’s relations with the EU, he drew parallels with the Soviet Union and the Polish People’s Republic. – If you consider the communist model, i.e. the Soviet Union, the existence of private agricultural farms under such a regime was a horrendous idea, and yet they still existed in the Polish People's Republic. The same holds true for the Catholic Church. It continued to exist despite the harassment and brutal persecution by communist authorities. So even under such unfavorable conditions, certain spheres of human freedom, the possibility of choice, had to be defended. Of course, Poland was completely subordinated to Moscow, but it remained somewhat separate nonetheless- he said.

Kaczyński: They want to take away our sovereignty. There will be a veto

Kaczyński further stated that "today, the EU institutions, all their different officials, some politicians that the Polish people have never even elected, demand that we verify our entire culture, reject everything that is especially important to us, just because". - There’s no other justification. It’s against the treaties, and it goes against what the Polish Parliament declared in terms of our cultural sovereignty before we joined the EU. There will be no consent for such actions. We will defend our identity, our freedom, and sovereignty at all costs. We will not be terrorized with money. Our answer to such actions will be clear: no- he said.

Asked whether Poland will veto the EU budget, he confirmed. – There will be a veto. If the threats and blackmail continue, we’ll firmly defend Poland’s vital interest. Veto. Non possumus. And this will be our answer to anyone trying to subjugate us. – he declared, adding: I’ll say it again- we're on the right side of history, and those who want to take away our sovereignty based on their own whims are headed for a fall.

Prompt response from Brussels

During the General Affairs Council meeting on Tuesday, Poland’s Minister of European Affairs, Konrad Szymański, refrained from using equally strong words. However, he still declared that Poland does not agree to the „rule of law mechanism” as proposed by the German EU presidency in September.

Responding directly to Kaczyński, the German Christian Democrat and chair of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, Tweeted:- Nobody is "blackmailing" anybody Mr. Kaczyński. Citizens all over Europe are concerned about rule of law and don't want their taxes to support governments that undermine the independence of the judiciary or the freedom of the media. What are you afraid of?

Kati Piri, the Dutch vice-president of the second-largest center-left club in the European Parliament, announced a tough stance on protecting the rule of law in Poland.

- We cannot continue, neither politically nor financially, to reward Mr. Kaczyński and his acolytes for destroying the Polish democracy. This has nothing to do with "terrorizing" or "imposing” values. The Polish government must guarantee its citizens all fundamental freedoms enshrined in the constitution and in the EU treaties- she explained.

- Polish citizens are EU citizens. The Union will take up all necessary measures and use all available instruments, including the budget and the Reconstruction Fund- Ms. Piri argued.

Michael Roth, the German Minister, pointed out that Kaczyński’s reaction “is nothing new”. -  Even if some member countries sometimes criticize the conditionality mechanism, the heads of states agreed to it during the July EU summit. It’s difficult to imagine the European Parliament will agree to the recovery package if such a measure isn’t guaranteed– he said after the Council meeting on Tuesday.

Even though avoiding a direct polemic with Kaczyński, the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, stressed that the rule of law proposal should protect the EU budget against "generalized deficiencies in the rule of law," because the purely anti-corruption aspects will be dealt with by the new European Public Prosecutor's Office (Poland and Hungary have not yet joined this EU institution).

The Monday negotiations between the European Parliament and the German Presidency did not bring much progress on the issue of linking the EU budget to the respect for the rule of law. Yet, in private, high-level European diplomats voice their conviction that the EU will be able to work out a compromise in the coming weeks.

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