January 27, 2022

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Poland is a little less generous. To please America

JANEK SKARZYNSKI via AFP via Getty Images

On August 10, 2021 in Warsaw, protesters flagged victory as TVN, Poland’s main private television network, carried banners containing letters from the US – based broadcaster, defending media freedom. – Proposed law in Poland compels US group Discovery to sell majority stake in TVN, Poland’s leading private television network. The law on TVN has raised fears of media pluralism in Poland, especially after the acquisition of PKN Orlen by the regional media group Polska Press, a state-owned energy company. The Polish parliament is scheduled to vote on the law on August 11. (Photo by Janek Skorsinsky / AFP) (Photo by Getty Images by Janek Skorsinsky / AFP)

Even between Christmas and New Year, on somewhat paused days, something can happen. In Warsaw, President Andrzej Duda vetoed a law restricting freedom of expression, recently approved by the Polish parliament. The new law, “Add TVN”, Established that no foreign company can own more than 49% of a television station operating in Poland. In fact, the move, which was favored by Jaroslav Kaczynski and the ruling PIS party, was supported by a large number of those who took to the streets in large numbers to directly target American television, criticize the government and defend the diversity of information. .

The president’s veto is not a bolt from the blue, it has been in the air for some time, but it has created an undeniable short circuit among Polish leaders. The bill, which aims to quell dissent, was contested by the United States and the European Union and opposition parties. For many, this is just another liberal crackdown on the Warsaw government. For the United States, this is a clear violation of the 1990 trade agreement with Poland: Americans invested substantial resources in TVN, which is now at risk of seizure or sale. So much so, that in vetoing, the President recalled the need to respect international obligations, “a matter of honor”.

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Duda may have raised suspicions and the law may have been scrutinized by the Constitutional Court. Instead he wanted to directly violate the law because he had been firm in the direction of the court and had long been flat on the will of the government and was not very sensitive to international restrictions and demands. There is a limit to everything, and the president must be rational. In recent weeks, with two controversial rulings, the Polish Constitutional Court has opened fire on the European Conference on EU treaties and human rights. There are already enough problems in Poland.

The government and parliament have so far been defeated by a leader who has been completely restructured, and in the Polish nomenclature we can see the subtle division of roles between hawks and pigeons, but with one shared goal: to take Washington’s disappointment into account. , To support it, to maintain explicit requests for course revision and to maintain close contact with the key partner. Not to mention the tensions with Minsk and Moscow, now is not the best time for the United States to become irritated with its support for Poland’s gas supply by cutting Russian supplies.

But a cohesive, more domestic drive cannot be ruled out. One of the most important issues on the domestic political agenda, though not the most relevant of all, is the reform of the justice system. The Conservative government did not hide its intention to tighten control of the judiciary. There has been a backlash against the president, who will reduce the power to appoint Supreme Court judges through reform. If the Poles go on the path of a reform that undermines the independence of the judiciary, its consequences will be severe, as there is a risk that Poland’s access to European financial resources will be compromised.

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Duda’s move on television and free information is an isolated fact and the tears are likely to be adjusted somehow over time. On the other hand, above all, the European perspective, supported by the majority poles, opposition or PiS, must be the background for taking the next steps to avoid losing EU funds generously. Beyond declarations of national pride, even some threads of the conservative camp leading Poland seem to be aware of the possibility of compliance with the sovereign campaign without excessive concessions, stocks and general rules. Poland is interested in overcoming disputes and misunderstandings with Brussels, in the current context of relations with neighboring countries. For Warsaw, even compliance with European agreements could soon become a matter of “honor.”