05:48 GMT +316 July 2019
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    A man looks at exhibit showing the Nazi flags.

    Nazi Crimes Invoked in Spat Between Germany and Poland Over Law Reforms

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    Polish justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, has alluded to Nazi crimes in the increasingly bitter war of words between Berlin and Warsaw over constitutional and media reforms brought in by his Law and Justice (PiS) party, which was swept to power in October 2015.

    The PiS party won the October 2015 election after eight years in opposition and became the first party to win an absolute majority since 1989. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo immediately nominated five extra judges to the Constitutional Court, which immediately caused political uproar.

    The move was widely seen as paving the way for the ruling government to effect more political control over the passing of laws in the country. That, in itself, has put it at odds with the European Union, which sets standards on member states' democratic transparency.

    In a separate move, the PiS managed to hastily pass a new law within two months of becoming elected, allowing it to to nominate the heads of the public service broadcasters. Critics said this would allow the government to manipulate the media.

    That move, in itself, has brought condemnation from journalists and human rights groups across Europe, as well as an investigation by the Council of Europe, which seeks to protect the freedom of the media.

    Warsaw has thus put itself politically at odds with both the European Union and the Council of Europe. The personalization is due to the nationality of one if the commissioners who last week made critical comments to the media.

    German EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger last week said he would press the EU to put Poland under "supervision" over changes it has made to the Constitutional Court and a new media law passed hurriedly before Christmas.

    "There is a lot to be said for activating the mechanism on the rule of law and putting Warsaw under supervision," Oettinger, Commissioner for the digital economy, told Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

    Ziobro has responded by writing in an open letter published through the Polish press agency, PAP:

    "You [Oettinger] demanded that Poland be placed under 'supervision.' Such words, spoken by a German politician, have the worst possible connotations for Poles. Also in me. I'm a grandson of a Polish officer, who during World War II fought in the underground National Army against 'German supervision,' " he said. 

    Meanwhile, the German Government was forced Monday to deny suggestion that it should impose sanctions on Poland over the issue. At the weekend, the parliamentary leader of Merkel's party, Volker Kauder, said in an interview:

    "If it is determined that European values are being violated, then (EU) member states must have the courage to impose sanctions."

    Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert quickly stamped on the suggestion when asked about sanctions against Warsaw were under consideration by Merkel's government with a blunt "no."

    Ambassador Summoned

    Poland has summoned the German ambassador in Warsaw over the remarks, which come in the wake of criticism from the EU over both its media law and changes to the constitutional court. The Polish Government appointed five judges to the Constitutional Tribunal, which is supposed to make independent rulings, leading to accusations that it would make it more difficult to oppose new laws.

    ​Polish President Andrzej Duda last week signed into law a controversial bill allowing the recently-elected government the powers to appoint the heads of public broadcasters, sparking rumors of mass sackings in the media.

    The media law has drawn criticism from the EU, journalists across Europe, as well as civil rights groups who say the government is taking political control of state media. The move is seen as further proof that the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is wiping out dissent.

    The commission has set a date for a meeting on January 13,  to discuss the rule of law mechanism, which could eventually result in the suspension of voting rights in the Council of the European Union.

    Related:

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    spat, constitutional law, reforms, government, law, media, diplomatic relations, European Union, Guenther Oettinger, Germany, Europe, Poland
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