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    What Does Poland’s Cabinet Reshuffle Actually Mean?

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    Poland’s PM Mateusz Morawiecki announced on the 9th of January a ‘deep reshuffle’ of his administration’s ministers before he met the head of the European Commission to discuss the Polish judicial overhaul that has triggered the threat of EU sanctions. But does the EU have the strength, power and conviction to actually implement its intentions?

    Magdalena Szmidt, a Polish lawyer and women's rights activist shares her opinion.

    The discussion starts with an evaluation of how radical the new cabinet shuffle announced by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki last week actually is. Magdalena expresses that the changes in the ministerial line up were made just before Morawiecki met with the European Commission, and were very likely just for show. Host John Harrison says that the ruling Law and Justice party is currently enjoying widespread support but nevertheless is an elected party, and many of its supporters may doubt the correctness of the present anti-EU line. "I don't believe in all of this reshuffling, this is all taking place within one party," Magdalena says.

    The main point of discussion is whether or not the EU can actually implement article 7 given that Hungary is supporting Poland in this regard and implementing article 7 against both countries at a time when the EU is itself under stress from Brexit and other issues may well be unrealistic. Magdalena stresses that article 7 has never been implemented before, so there is no precedence, and nobody really knows what will happen. "However, article 7 is triggered. It is a nuclear option,… it is technically correct though that if there is not unanimous support, article 7 cannot be applied. Victor Oban [Prime Minister of Hungary] has already said that it will not support the application of article 7 against Poland. But there have been discussions within the EU to apply it also to Hungary,… I have talked to several people from the EU and they said that it is a dangerous idea to apply it simultaneously to Poland and Hungary although technically it is possible."

    Poland receives quite a lot of money from the EU in terms of development grants; it is in fact the EU's largest net recipient of the bloc's development funds. "I have been saying for over two years that EU funds should be cut, because this is factually and actually the only way that some results can be achieved, but legally you have to go through the article 7 procedure. We know, however, what is legal is legal and what is practice is practice….Article 7.1 has been triggered, article 7 is quite long, it will take a long time to be implemented." In reply to the question: "How long do you think it will take to be implemented?" Magdalena answers: "3 years, how long do you think Brexit will take?" 

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    administration, European Union, Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland
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