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Poland calls von der Leyen’s ‘the tools’ comment ‘scandalous’

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki labeled as “scandalous” comments by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that the EU has “the tools” to deal with a member state if election results “go in a difficult direction.”

At a conference at Princeton University on Thursday, von der Leyen was asked about the candidates in Sunday’s legislative elections in Italy, but she included Poland and Hungary in her response.

“If things go in a difficult direction — and I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland — we have the tools,” von der Leyen said, in a clear reference to the Commission’s ability to cut funds allocated to EU governments when they are deemed to be violating the rule of law.

“Von der Leyen’s statement was scandalous,” Morawiecki said in the Polish town of Świdnik on Saturday, the state-run news agency PAP reported. “She said Brussels had the tools to discipline Italy if it created a government that would not be in favor of Brussels,” he was quoted as saying.

“Is this the Europe we want? … That Eurocrats in Brussels dictate what the government should be?” Morawiecki asked. “This is not the rule of law; it is a dictate and the lack of the rule of law,” the prime minister said.

The Commission has imposed a set of rule-of-law “milestones” on Poland, including reforming a controversial judicial disciplinary regime, in order for Warsaw to access money from the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund. The Council of the EU signed off on the plan in June. European judges sued the Council in late August over its decision, saying that European Court of Justice judgments were disregarded.

On Hungary, the Commission on Sept. 18 proposed to cut €7.5 billion of EU funds allocated to Budapest.

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