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What We're Watching: Poland threatens the EU

Poland and the EU are at it again. It’s clear that there’s no love lost these days between Warsaw and Brussels, who have been at loggerheads in recent years over rule-of-law issues, particularly a spate of reforms in Poland that undermine the judiciary’s independence. Poland upped the ante Sunday, saying it would withhold payments to the EU budget and veto EU laws if Brussels follows through on a previous threat to delay COVID relief funds after Poland’s top court ruled that its own constitution trumps EU law. The EU has said that disbursement of funds to “illiberal” member states Hungary and Poland is contingent on domestic democratic reforms — a mechanism that the two Eastern European states have now challenged in court. Poland is legally obligated to pay its EU dues in order to reap the bloc’s benefits, but clearly Warsaw is banking on Brussels acquiescing in the near term. However, the EU knows that Poland might not want to push the boundaries much further because a majority of Poles want to remain part of the EU. Who will cave first?

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What's happening in Poland? Should we worry?

Well, legal niceties aside, within the realm of the treaties, the European Union treaties, agreed, it is fundamental that the laws apply and are respected. And if the Polish constitutional court, loaded with political appointees, now decides that they don't apply in Poland, that sort of undermines the very concept of Polish membership of the European Union. So we'll see what happens. We haven't heard the last of this, but it's a fundamental battle. There's no question about that.

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What about the outcome of the German election?

Well, as expected, the Social Democrats under Olaf Scholz came out on top. They had a very credible campaign, presenting him primarily not as a Social Democrat, but as a possible successor to Angela Merkel. Then, It's going to take quite some time to form a new government and the exact outcome of that, not entirely certain.

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