EU, Germany criticize Poland in worsening rule of law spat

The European Union and Germany criticized the Polish government Tuesday for threatening the rule of law in the country, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying its disrespect for democratic norms could undermine cooperation in the 28-nation bloc.

Merkel said the worsening dispute between Warsaw and Brussels over changes in Poland’s judicial system touches on “the basis of cooperation inside the European Union.” And the EU’s executive branch dismissed Poland’s position that it should stay out of the country’s legislative affairs if it feels democratic standards are threatened.

The EU Commission has been taking on Poland for perceived flaws in the rule of law after the Law and Justice party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski came to power two years ago. A primary point of contention is legislation the government aggressively pushed through to put the court system under the ruling party’s control.

The Commission, echoing the concerns of Polish government critics and some other nations, has said the moves threaten to reduce the independence of judges and increase government interference.

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo described the criticism as “unjust” in a video statement posted Tuesday on Twitter.

Szydlo insisted that Poland “respects the rule of law and is a democratic nation,” as well as a pro-EU nation “guided by solidarity” and ready to defend the 28-member bloc’s values.

The Law and Justice party has criticized the EU as overly bureaucratic and meddlesome in national affairs, reserving special scorn for EU Council President Donald Tusk, a longtime political opponent of Kaczynski.

The tension edged up another notch on Monday, when Warsaw sent the EU a letter stating that its criticism of the judicial changes “go beyond the Commission’s authority.”

Commission spokeswoman Vanessa Mock fired back on Tuesday. “It is something we would actually quite powerfully refute,” Mock said.

Seeking to deflect the dispute with EU leaders, Poland’s Szydlo said Europe…

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