Europe

Poland PM Szydlo defends reforms in EU Parliament

Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo Image copyright AFP
Image caption Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said the EU should respect Poland's decisions

Poland's prime minister has defended her government's reforms of the media and judiciary in the European Parliament, saying they do not breach EU democracy rules.

The European Commission has opened an unprecedented inquiry into whether the new laws violate EU standards.

PM Beata Szydlo told MEPs that the move to appoint constitutional court judges was an internal matter for Poland.

She said reforms of Poland's public broadcaster would improve objectivity.

Earlier this month Polish President Duda approved the controversial laws, which enable the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government to hire and fire the heads of public TV and radio as well as senior civil servants, and choose judges for Poland's constitutional court.

Critics and local protesters have accused the government, elected in October 2015, of a power grab.

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Media captionThe BBC's Paul Adams examines the political scene in Poland

Speaking in the European Parliament, Ms Szydlo said: "There have been no violations of the constitution in Poland recently.

"The Constitutional Tribunal is doing fine in Poland these days. It works. Nothing bad is going on," Reuters news agency quoted her as saying.

She said the EU should be supporting Poland's government and respecting the country's sovereignty.

"We are part of a united Europe This is a major value for us. We are Europeans and we are proud of it."

'System of checks'

However Guy Verhofstadt, the head of the Liberals and Democrats group in the European Parliament, challenged Ms Szydlo.

He expressed concern that the party seemed to be using its substantial parliamentary majority to "dismantle the system of checks and balances in the country".

Last week European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans announced a "preliminary assessment" of Poland's reforms under the EU's "rule of law mechanism".

On Tuesday, Ms Szydlo said she was disappointed Poland would be the first country monitored under the mechanism, which was introduced in 2014 to protect fundamental EU values.

"Today I can have a sense of injustice that it is Poland that is subjected to this experiment," she was quoted as saying.

Mr Timmermans said the review would be carried out impartially.

"When national rule of law safeguards seem to come under threat, the EU needs to act," Reuters quoted him as saying.

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