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Poland row set to dominate EU summit

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Warsaw, Oct 21: A summit of European Union leaders starting on Thursday that was originally intended to discuss dramatically rising energy prices is now set to be overshadowed by an increasingly bitter feud with Poland over the rule of law.

Poland row set to dominate EU summit

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is likely to come under pressure from his EU counterparts to bring his country into conformity with the principles of the bloc it signed up to in 2004.

The issue at stake is a ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal earlier this month stating that some elements of EU law were not in accordance with the country's constitution.

The ruling brings to a head differences between Poland and the bloc over several principles of democracy, ranging from judicial independence, freedom of media opinion to rights of women, migrants and LGBTQ people.

Financial penalties possible

Warsaw could face financial penalties for its actions, with France and the Netherlands particularly objecting to EU money going to governments that undercut democratic principles and human rights, such as those in Hungary and Poland.

The European Commission has already temporarily stopped Warsaw from taking its share of €57 billion ($66 billion) in emergency funds aimed at helping the economies of EU member states to recover from the COVID pandemic. The European Parliament is also to vote later on Thursday on whether to call on the bloc to cut its handouts for Poland over the rights violations.

Since joining the bloc, Poland has enjoyed significant benefits from EU funding, and public support for remaining a member is high, despite the moves by the government that would seem to suggest a potential exit.

Morawiecki has dismissed suggestions of a "Polexit."

Energy prices also on agenda

Apart from the likely focus on Poland, leaders are set to discuss ways of countering surging energy prices.

Options to be discussed could be lowering taxes, delivering direct financial aid to households most at risk and giving state aid to small businesses.

One proposal that could be on the table is that of joint gas storage and procurement. France is also calling for a review of the way electricity is priced in the bloc, while touting nuclear power as a climate-friendly energy option.

The two days of talks will also likely include discussions on the COVID-19 pandemic that is still causing surges in infections in several member states, while vaccination rates are still extremely low in some countries.

tj/sms (Reuters, dpa)

Source: DW

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