European Commission to debate Polish media law

BRUSSELS - The European Commission said Sunday it would debate the rule of law in Poland this month in the first stage of a potentially-punitive procedure after Warsaw seized control of public broadcasters.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “has placed a first debate on the rule of law in Poland on the agenda of the commission’s meeting on January 13,” a statement said in reference to the controversial media law which went into force on Wednesday.
The legislation, which gives Poland’s conservative government the power to directly appoint the heads of public broadcasters, was rushed through parliament, despite European Union concern and condemnation from rights watchdogs.
Ahead of the debate, Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans sent two letters to the Polish government “asking for information about the changes to the law”.
The statement was issued after EU Commissioner Gunther Oettinger threatened to put Poland on notice for infringing common European values in an interview with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper. “Many reasons exist for us to activate the ‘Rule of Law mechanism’ and for us to place Warsaw under monitoring,” he said.
The Rule of Law mechanism was set up in March 2014 to tackle “systemic threats to the rule of law”. The upcoming Commission debate constitutes the first stage of the three-step procedure.
During the initial phase, the Commission will collect information and assess whether there are clear indications of a systemic threat to the rule of law. If the threat is confirmed, it will initiate dialogue with the state which will be given a chance to respond.
The Commission said it was “too early to speculate about the possible next stages” in the procedure. “We are engaged in intensive dialogue with our Polish partners,” the statement said.

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