Posts Tagged ‘poland’

Polish Catholics pray at borders ‘to save country’

October 8, 2017

AFP

© Wojtek Radwanski / AFP | People take part in a mass rosary prayer, begging God “to save Poland and the world” from dangers facing them, in Koden Sanctuary, eastern Poland, on the banks a border river between Poland and Belarus.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-07

Thousands of Polish Catholics formed human chains on the country’s borders Saturday, begging God “to save Poland and the world” in an event many viewed as a spiritual weapon against the “Islamisation” of Europe.

Reciting “Rosary to the Borders”, they called to be protected from the dangers facing them. The episcopate insisted that it was a purely religious initiative.

The goal was to have as many prayer points as possible along Poland‘s 3,511-kilometre (2,200-mile) border with Germany, the Czech RepublicSlovakiaUkraineBelarusLithuaniaRussia and the Baltic Sea.

Fishing boats joined the event on the sea, while kayaks and sailboats formed chains on Polish rivers, local media said.

‘It is necessary to return to Christian roots’

During a mass, broadcast live by the ultra-Catholic Radio Maryja, Krakow archbishop Marek Jedraszewski called on believers to pray “for the other European nations to make them understand it is necessary to return to Christian roots so that Europe would remain Europe.”

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, told the commercial radio station RMF FM that “the key objective of this manifestation is to pray for peace.”

The date was not chosen at random. October 7 is when Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the 1571 victory of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.

A victory attributed to the recital of the rosary “that saved Europe from Islamisation”, the Solo Dios Basta foundation, organising the event, said on its website.

Many Poles see Islam as a threat. The conservative government, which enjoys the backing of a sizeable portion of the population, refuses to welcome migrants to Poland, which has very few Muslims of its own.

Nationalist Catholic activist Marcin Dybowski told AFP before the event that “a religious war between Christianity and Islam is once again underway in Europe, just like in the past.”

“Poland is in danger. We need to shield our families, our homes, our country from all kinds of threats, including the de-Christianisation of our society, which the EU’s liberals want to impose on us,” he said.

Twenty-two border dioceses have taken part in the event, with their faithful congregating in some 200 churches for a lecture and mass before travelling to the border to say the rosary.

The prayers were also said at the chapels of several international airports. Polish parishes abroad said they would join the event too.

(AFP)

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Hundreds of Thousands of Polish Catholics are Expected on Saturday to “Pray the Rosary Together on Our Borders For World Peace”

October 6, 2017

AFP

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© AFP / by Maja Czarnecka | A poster promoting the “Rosary to the Borders” initiative fixed in a Warsaw church

WARSAW (AFP) – Hundreds of thousands of Polish Catholics are expected to descend Saturday on the country’s borders to recite the rosary “to save Poland and the world” from the dangers facing them, organisers say, but others claim the event is aimed at protecting Europe from what they term a Muslim onslaught.

The episcopate insists that the “Rosary to the Borders” is a purely religious initiative, but some Catholics view it as a weapon against “Islamisation.”

 The date was not chosen at random. October 7 is when Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the 1571 victory of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.
                
A victory attributed to the recital of the rosary “that saved Europe from Islamisation”, the Solo Dios Basta foundation said on the website of the event it is organising.

Many Poles see Islam as a threat. The conservative government, which enjoys the backing of a sizeable portion of the population, refuses to welcome migrants to Poland, which has very few Muslims of its own.

Twenty-two border dioceses will take part in the event, whose faithful will congregate in some 200 churches for a lecture and mass before travelling to the border to say the rosary.

The goal is to have as many prayer points as possible along the 3,511 kilometres (about 2,200 miles) that make up Poland’s borders with Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea.

Fishing boats will join in at sea, while kayaks and sailboats will form a chain along rivers and lakes. Prayers will also be said at the chapels of a few international airports.

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Praying the Rosary by Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

– ‘Spiritual barrier’ –

Organisers hope one million people will show for the event. The railways are offering tickets for a symbolic 1 zloty (27 cents, 23 euro cents) to around 40 destinations on the border.

Those who are unable to attend can instead catch the event live on ultra-Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja.

The goal is to pray for world peace, according to Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The initiative obviously received the approval of Poland’s bishops,” he told AFP, emphasising that it would be wrong to view the event as a prayer against the arrival of Muslim refugees.

“It is not a matter of closing ourselves off to others. On the contrary, the point of bringing the rosary to the borders is to break down walls and open ourselves up to Russians, Belarussians, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Germans,” he said.

But for the nationalist Catholic activist Marcin Dybowski, it is clear “that a religious war between Christianity and Islam is once again underway in Europe, just like in the past.”

“Europe has been invaded by Islam, which doesn’t respect our mores, our civilisation. The (terrorist) attacks leave behind hundreds of victims. Europe only makes a show of protecting borders,” he said.

Dybowski, an editor of religious books, is behind the Rosary Crusade for the Motherland, a religious and political initiative bringing together ultra-Catholic nationalists.

“The reality is that there are no borders. (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel opened them up to a large extent,” he told AFP.

“Poland is in danger. We need to shield our families, our homes, our country from all kinds of threats, including the de-Christianisation of our society, which the EU’s liberals want to impose on us,” he said.

“Austria and Hungary built barbed-wire walls against refugees. We’re using prayer to create a spiritual barrier against the dangers of terrorism.”

by Maja Czarnecka
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Saturday is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary
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Russia is hacking and harassing NATO soldiers, report says

October 6, 2017

The latest efforts by the Kremlin to disrupt NATO deployment include face-to-face harassment of soldiers using personal data. Some experts have said these tactics can easily turn deadly.

Soldiers of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, prepare to drive Marder light tanks onto a train for transport to Lithuania

US and NATO alliance officials said they are concerned about reports that troops on NATO’s frontlines in the Baltic states and Poland have been personally confronted by strangers who possess personal details about them.

The Wall Street Journal reported Russia is using advanced surveillance techniques, including drones and covert antennas, to pull data from smartphones being used by soldiers deployed as part of the alliance’s “enhanced Forward Presence” (eFP) in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The WSJ story includes personal accounts of military personnel being approached in public by a person they believed was a Russian agent conveying personal details about them for purposes of intimidation.

Speaking at NATO headquarters, US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said the matter is being looked into. “We will definitely be bringing it up,” Hutchison pledged. One of the Army officers who told the WSJ his phone had been hacked was an American lieutenant colonel who feared the Russians were tracking him with it.

Belgien US-Botschafter bei der NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison (T. Schultz)US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison says she’ll be raising the issue of Russian hacking of allied troops.

“We have seen attempts to undermine troops deployed in this part of our alliance, but our personnel are well-prepared to perform the mission at hand, despite these hybrid challenges,” a NATO military official explained. “The safety and security of our personnel is always a top priority for NATO, as well as for all contributing and host nations.”

The official, who was not authorized to give his name, emphasized that “all necessary measures” are being taken “protect the mission” and networks, and that personnel are being trained to be vigilant “as part of their daily routines, including online.”

http://www.dw.com/en/russia-is-hacking-and-harassing-nato-soldiers-report-says/a-40827197

From The Wall Street Journal:

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NATO to Increase Counterterrorism Funding in Line With Trump Agenda

October 5, 2017

France was holdout on increasing common budget funding over audit concerns

In this Feb. 9 photograph, an Italian soldier from NATO's Resolute Support Mission trains Afghan soldiers on the outskirts of Herat.
In this Feb. 9 photograph, an Italian soldier from NATO’s Resolute Support Mission trains Afghan soldiers on the outskirts of Herat. PHOTO: AREF KARIMI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BRUSSELS—The U.S. has reached an agreement with holdout France to increase NATO funding for counterterrorism programs, clearing a significant obstacle to the Trump administration’s agenda for the alliance.

Under the deal, allied diplomats said, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s total budget, now $1.6 billion, will rise next year by roughly 1%. While the budget rises each year and the increase is modest, the extra money will allow the alliance to expand its to counterterrorism training programs.

The French have been forcefully opposed to increasing common funding in recent years, particularly for counterterrorism initiatives, and have expressed concerns about how the many is spent.

Many members do not see counterterrorism as the alliance’s core mission but at a NATO meeting of leaders in May there was broad agreement to expand training.

President Donald Trump has pushed NATO to focus more on counterterrorism. NATO has taken some steps to get more involved in training, including asking members to increase their contributions to its mission in Afghanistan.

Many NATO initiatives, including the deployment of military forces to Poland and the Baltic States, aren’t covered by the common budget and are funded based on voluntary national contributions of personnel or military equipment to missions. But NATO officials and diplomats said common funding is important to promote the training missions.

NATO’s North Atlantic Council of ambassadors failed to agree on expansion of the common funding until late last month, when France stopped its block on funding. The new U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said increasing common funding was important to help the alliance get more involved in counterterrorism programs.

“Counterterrorism is very much a priority set by the council and common funding is essential for that to really move forward,” Mrs. Hutchison said in a recent interview.

Allied diplomats said the full slate of counterterrorism initiatives being funded is still being discussed and NATO defense ministers may discuss options at their meeting next month.

Some officials want the alliance to use common funding to increase training efforts in Iraq, but a number of countries remain skeptical that the NATO effort there should grow dramatically, diplomats said.

Mr. Trump in May spoke at NATO headquarters about terror attacks in Europe but few if any of the initiatives being considered by NATO involve directly fighting European terror networks. Most European countries view that as a job for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition or national law-enforcement agencies.

U.S. military officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford, have said NATO’s strength is in training other nation’s militaries, rather than getting involved in combating terror networks in Europe or conducting strikes in the Middle East or North Africa.

Some NATO officials have examined how to expand the number of mobile training teams the alliance sends to countries such as Tunisia and Jordan. Such teams can work with partner militaries on a range of skills that can help them combat terror groups more effectively.

The alliance is also thinking about ways to expand the work and role of NATO’s Special Operations Forces headquarters, which develops training programs for the alliance. It is currently mostly funded by the U.S. and is not formally part of the alliance command structure.

The total common budget is made up of NATO’s €1.29 billion ($1.5 billion) common military budget—which funds the alliance’s multiple command posts, its 16 surveillance planes, some missions and other items—and the smaller civil budget of €234 million, which funds the headquarters and its civilian staff.

The U.S. contributes about 22% of the alliance’s budget, which is only about half of what it would contribute if it paid based on the size of its economy. But the U.S. spends far more on its military than other countries and makes a disproportionate contribution to NATO’s military might.

This year, France is the third largest contributor, after the U.S. and Germany. But next year, because of shifting economic growth, the U.K. will become the third largest contributor.

French officials have been pushing for expanded audits of NATO spending and an overhaul of how the alliance spends its money.

U.S. officials said they didn’t agree to any additional audits as part of the deal to expand common funding. But allied diplomats noted that NATO has been expanding its use of performance audits.

French diplomats said they are hopeful the new U.S. administration will eventually back their proposals for greater scrutiny of alliance spending. The diplomats said that U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon are working on proposals to improve NATO decision-making and leadership that could be aligned with the French proposals.

Poland Urged to Fire Publisher of Works by Holocaust Denier

October 3, 2017

WARSAW, Poland — A Jewish rights group is urging a Polish state historical institute to fire an official who has published several books by notorious British Holocaust denier David Irving.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, headquartered in the United States, says the official, Arkadiusz Wingert, published books by Irving between 2009 and 2014.

Wingert is now the deputy director of the publishing office of the Institute of National Remembrance, a state body that investigates crimes in Poland during World War II and the subsequent communist era.

Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Wiesenthal center, said in a statement late Monday: “If the (institute) is to maintain any shred of credibility it must end its relationship with Wingert immediately and stop all efforts aimed at undermining the history of the Holocaust in Poland.”

Macron’s eurozone plans put eastern EU members on the spot

September 28, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron is impatient to reinvigorate the eurozone. But this puts the EU’s eastern members in a dilemma: stay out and risk losing clout in Brussels or join and risk losing economic sovereignty?

USA Präsident Macron vor der UN-Vollversammlung (Reuters/S. Stapleton)

Macron reiterated his view this week that a multi-speed Europe led by a core of ‘avant-garde’ countries could be the price worth paying for pushing the eurozone — and the European project more widely — forward in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

“We should imagine a Europe of several formats — going further with those who want to advance, while not being held back by states which want to progress slower or not as far,” Macron said.

“It appears that Macron would like a tighter, more centralized eurozone with France and Germany at its heart,” Liam Carson of Capital Economics told DW. “However, he remained fairly vague on euro-zone specifics, probably because of the worse than expected outcome for [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel in the German election.”

But Macron’s words have fallen on some deaf ears in Central and Eastern Europe, a region struggling with political uncertainty and growing Euroskepticism, despite continued strong growth.

Of the nine new member states that joined the EU in 2004-2009, the Baltic countries, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta have adopted the euro, while Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia have not yet done so.

Critics argue that speeding up the process of monetary — as a precursor to fiscal — integration might fuel the overheating that was seen in Southern Europe after the 2007-8 financial crisis and subsequent recession.

But, “if the eurozone can generate growth throughout the 19 nations and not just the center, then any new institutions may prompt the non-euro members to want to join. If not, then the divisions would surely widen,” Linda Yueh, a professor of Economics at London Business School, told DW.

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‘It’s now or never’

Will Hutton, a British economist, told DW that while a two-speed Europe is a risk, “the time has come for this. Macron’s plans are the biggest boost to Europe since the early 1990s, the era of Jacques Delors.”

“Sure, Macron is using Merkel’s weakness, but Europe is on the cusp of an economic run and while some eastern European economies might not be able to stand the pace, Europe can’t go on at the speed of the slowest for much longer,” Hutton said, adding that the UK might even be knocking back on the EU’s door in the next five to ten years.

All non-euro EU member states except Denmark and the UK are already legally obligated to work toward adopting the euro, by satisfying various “convergence criteria,” namely:

Inflation — Member states should have an average rate of inflation that doesn’t exceed that of the three best-performing member states by over 1.5 percent for a period of one year before being assessed.

Government budgets — Member states’ ratio of planned or actual government deficit to GDP should be no more than three percent. Their ratio of government debt to GDP should be no more than 60 percent.

Exchange Rates — Member states should have respected the normal fluctuation margins of the exchange rate mechanism (ERM) and should not have devalued their currency against any other member state’s currency for at least the two years before being assessed.

Interest rates — Member states should have had an average interest rate over a period of one year before being assessed that does not exceed by more than two percentage points that of the three best-performing member states.

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Central & Eastern Europe: weary and ​​​​​wary 

“It seems unlikely that any of the major economies in Central and Eastern Europe will adopt the euro any time soon,” Carson says.

“With respect to the criteria, as things stand, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic all meet the debt, interest rate and inflation criteria for joining,” although he added that there is a good chance that loose fiscal policy in Poland and Romania will cause budget deficits to widen beyond the 3 percent of GDP threshold by next year.

“Hungary’s deficit could also widen beyond 3 percent of GDP and with public debt still well above 60 percent of GDP, it also fails the debt criteria.”

“More importantly, political appetite for joining the euro is generally waning. Accession to the eurozone in Poland and Hungary is unlikely to happen under the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) and Fidesz governments, which have both become increasingly hostile towards EU oversight of domestic policy,” Carson says.

“Poland’s opposition is based on ideological grounds, but also public support is not sufficient. In the Czech Republic the main obstacle is public support. Most of the parties would have been open to introducing the euro, but public opinion has prevented that so far. In Hungary there is strong public support and a governmental decision ahead of the 2018 elections might be a popular step,” Daniel BarthaExecutive Director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy (CEID)  in Budapest, told DW.

The Palace of Culture and Science in WarsawPoliticians in Warsaw have warned that the creation of a multi-speed Europe could “break apart” the EU.

Poland

“Brexit is not a risk for the EU … A bigger threat is if the EU starts to break apart into a multi-speed union, into blocs where some are stronger and can decide about others,” President Andrzej Duda said this month. “The result could be a divided EU that’s not politically or economically viable, which may break apart the bloc,” he added.

The bedrock of common understanding that Merkel and ex-Polish PM Donald Tusk shared is now long gone. And ties between Warsaw and Paris have been strained since August after Macron’s speech criticizing what he called Warsaw’s attack on democracy and a French plan to tighten rules on EU posted workers, such as Polish truck drivers.

The Law and Justice (PiS) government has also taken aim at Germany, demanding war reparations, attacking plans to build a second Nord Stream gas pipeline to Russia that bypasses Poland and being highly critical of its western neighbor’s policies towards refugees.

Nonetheless, Poland will start to debate whether to join the eurozone when the bloc becomes a stable and transparent entity, Konrad Szymanski, the Polish deputy foreign minister in charge of European affairs, has said.

About 80 percent of Polish international trade is accountable in euros, so entering the eurozone will significantly decrease currency risk and simplify transactions with foreign companies. Despite this, over two-thirds of Poles oppose joining the euro area.

Prague, the Czech capitalA general election to be held October 20-21, will show whether the Czechs will seek to join the EU hard core.

Czech Republic

The Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka wants his country to set a date for the adoption of the euro and has “the ambition to belong among the most advanced European countries.”

The Czech Republic has been cautious about joining the euro, on both the left and the right. No firm date has been set and in recent years governments have shied away from making predictions.

The country has a long reputation for running a credible monetary policy and traditionally has had interest rates below those in the eurozone.

“In the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, who is the heavy favourite to become Prime Minister following next month’s elections, has continued to strongly reiterate that the Czech Republic shouldn’t adopt the currency,” according to Carson.

Hungary

Hungarian economic policy cannot abandon its long-term intention of joining the eurozone, “but there is no rush,” the economy minister, Mihaly Varga, said in June. Vargo said a currency system where monetary policy is unified but fiscal policy is not is also a viable route.

But a senior Hungarian politician said in early August that Hungary could only consider adopting the euro when its level of economic development is closer to that of the eurozone countries.

“That is, if there is genuine convergence,” Andras Tallai, state secretary at the economy ministry, said.

Hungarian parliament bulilding is seen as ice floes float on the Danube river in Budapest In 2013, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán proclaimed euro adoption would not happen until the country’s purchasing power parity weighted GDP per capita had reached 90 percent of the eurozone average.

“Otherwise, Hungary could be the loser of accession similar to some Mediterranean countries,” he went on, adding that Hungary won’t yet enter the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) — a kind of ante-chamber for eurozone aspirants — but already meets all of the Maastricht criteria for adopting the euro, with the exception of the forint not being pegged to the euro.

Hungary has to enter to the ERM2 (the exchange rate mechanism) and meet the criteria for 2 years constantly. Hungary meets all other criteria: inflation was 0.1 percent, the deficit 2.4 percent and interest rates are also around 1 percent, and although the debt level is beyond the 60 percent limit, as it is constantly reducing, Hungary also meet that criterion.

Romania

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has said Romania will adopt the euro only after wages in the country come close to those in other EU member states.

Romania has second lowest minimum monthly wage out of 20 EU member states, of 1,450 lei ($341/321 euro), after Bulgaria, according to a study by KPMG.

A study conducted last November by the European Institute of Romania showed that the country could join the Eurozone 13 years from now – if it sustains the average growth rate of the last 15 years.

Currently, Romania is below 60 percent of the European Union average in terms of GDP per capita.

“The story is slightly different in Romania. The foreign minister, Teodor Melescanu, recently announced that Romania will adopt the euro. However, he stated that this won’t happen until 2022. And given that previous plans to adopt the euro have been shelved, this date could easily be delayed. In short, Romania won’t become a member of the euro-zone any time soon,” Carson says.

Frankreich PK Migrationsgipfel in Paris (Reuters/C. Platiau)Angela Merkel is supporting Macron’s call for a new powerful eurozone finance minister post to oversee economic policy across the bloc. She said the new role could provide “greater coherence” to economic policy.

Merkel holds the key

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also backed a plan for a European Monetary Fund (EMF) that would redistribute money within the bloc to where it was needed.

Macron believes that the monetary union suffers from too little centralization and needs its own budget, while Merkel views the bloc’s problem as over-centralization and too little national responsibility.

Merkel has backed her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble‘s proposal to turn the European Stability Mechanism, the eurozone’s bailout fund, into the EMF, but she does not see the official possessing “expansive powers.”

Merkel has said she wants a budget of “small contributions” rather than “hundreds of billions of euros.”

France will implement these deep structural reforms on the proviso that Germany agrees to modest steps towards fiscal federalism in the eurozone. But many in Germany — and far beyond as well — appear skeptical about Macron’s ability to achieve his domestic goals.

Still, observers say, Merkel will want to help Macron politically as it is in Germany’s interests to see that he is not replaced at the next presidential election in France by Marine Le Pen of the National Front.

http://www.dw.com/en/macrons-eurozone-plans-put-eastern-eu-members-on-the-spot/a-40709205

Polish president wants more powers over courts as controversy rages

September 25, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The controversial judicial reforms have sparked wide protests

WARSAW (AFP) – Polish President Andrzej Duda on Monday proposed a constitutional amendment giving him more power over the judiciary in the latest twist to a reform campaign that has alarmed the EU and triggered mass protests.Duda unveiled his own version of new judicial legislation in place of government proposals he had vetoed in July to the surprise and dismay of the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

“I have a proposal: I’ve prepared a bill to amend the constitution,” Duda told reporters, adding that he had asked lawmakers to give their thoughts on the matter later Monday.

In July, Duda vetoed one proposed bill that would have reinforced political control over the Supreme Court and another allowing parliament to choose members of a body designed to protect the independence of the courts.

In his own version, Duda proposed that a minimum of 60 percent of lawmakers would be required to choose members of the court watchdog KRS so that no single party could dominate.

“If within two months the parliament is unable to elect members of the National Judicial Council (KRS) by a majority of three-fifths, then it would go to the president to choose the members from among the candidates presented to parliament,” Duda said.

He added that he had heard from both government and opposition lawmakers that giving the president such power would be unconstitutional, which is why he was proposing amending the constitution to make it possible.

The main opposition parties Nowoczesna and Civic Platform (PO) immediately said they were against such a move.

Duda also unveiled his own version of the Supreme Court bill which too would increase his powers by letting him decide which judges can remain on the bench past the retirement age of 65.

In his draft proposal, Duda also said ordinary citizens should be able to file complaints against court decisions.

These complaints would be heard by a new special chamber that would notably also include members of the public.

The attempt by Polish leaders to overhaul the judicial system has drawn concern from the European Commission, which on Monday will assess whether there is backing among member states for unprecedented sanctions against the PiS government over the court reforms.

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EU Calls for Legal Commission to Vet New Polish Judicial Reform Laws

September 25, 2017

BRUSSELS — The European Commission called on Monday for Poland to seek European legal advice on two draft judicial reform laws put forward by President Andrzej Duda, to check that they comply with European democratic standards.

In July, Duda, an ally of Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, unexpectedly vetoed its plan to overhaul the judiciary, after nationwide protests and warnings from Western allies that the changes would undermine the independence of the courts.

Earlier on Monday he presented his own drafts of the two vetoed laws, proposing a greater role for himself over the nomination of judges.

The European Commission said Poland should seek the opinion of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe on the drafts. The commission provides legal advice to its members to help them bring their laws and institutions into line with European standards.

“It would be extremely helpful if these two draft laws… would be given to the Venice Commission for advice,” European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans told a news conference.

 Image result for Frans Timmermans, photos
European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans

“We will make our comments on that also once we have analysed it,” he said, referring to the ongoing unprecedented process of EU monitoring of Poland’s adherence to the rule of law launched at the beginning of 2016.

The Venice Commission ruled last year that laws passed by the PiS government on the country’s Constitutional Tribunal were incompatible with European standards, prompting the European Commission to launch its rule-of-law monitoring procedure.

Timmermans said the Commission’s monitoring of Poland’s democratic practices had received broad support from national governments, which stressed that the rule of law was fundamental for the functioning of the European Union as a whole.

He said he would be happy to receive Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski in Brussels or himself go to Warsaw to continue the dialogue with Poland that other governments were so keen on.

Speaking to reporters after delivering an update on the rule of law monitoring process in Poland to EU ministers, Timmermans said he had broad support to continue.

“What is most important to me is that everybody around the table said: Rule of law? It is not an option, it is an obligation… it is the fundament of European cooperation… it concerns us all,” he said.

“I was encouraged by the broad, broad support I felt in the Council for trying to find a solution. But there is still a lot, a lot we need to do before we can say that the problem has been solved,” Timmermans said.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Poland: Leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski Differs from President Andrzej Duda on Revisions to Judicial Bodies, Reorganizing the Supreme Court — Will Offer Counter-Proposal

September 25, 2017

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s top politician says he and the nation’s president differ on the shape of an overhaul of judicial bodies that is at the heart of Poland’s standoff with the European Union.

The head of Poland’s ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, made the comment hours before President Andrzej Duda is to present his proposals for reorganizing the Supreme Court and a top judicial body.

Duda has vetoed bills proposed by Kaczynski’s party and says he will hammer out his own proposals, angering Kaczynski.

Protesters see the ruling party’s plans as subjecting judges to political influence, in violence of EU rules.

Kaczynski said in an interview published Monday that his meeting last week with Duda over his proposals exposed a “far-going difference of views.”

Putin Attends Military Drills That Worry Russia’s Neighbors

September 18, 2017

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending military maneuvers that have worried his country’s neighbors.

Putin, accompanied by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, attended the Zapad (West) 2017 drills on Monday at the Luzhsky range in western Russia, just over 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) east of Estonia’s border.

Russian and Belarusian troops are participating in the exercises that started last week.

Some nervous NATO members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized an alleged lack of transparency about the war games and questioned Moscow’s intentions.

Russia and Belarus say the exercises, which run until Wednesday, involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops. Some NATO countries have estimated that up to 100,000 troops could be involved.

Moscow has rejected the claim and insists the maneuvers don’t threaten anyone.