EU's Schulz refuses to back down in Poland 'coup' spat

15th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz refused to apologise Tuesday for likening events in Poland under the new right-wing government to a coup, insisting he had many concerns about the country's direction.

Asked during an interview with AFP if he would apologise as Poland's prime minister has demanded for comments he made to German radio, Schulz reacted by restating his criticisms.

"I find that these developments create a long list of questions and concerns," Schulz said.

"It is very surprising that a few days after the government has taken office, it is taking measures against the top court in this manner," Schulz added, referring to challenges against Poland's Constitutional Court by the new government.

Such a development in his own country, Germany, was unthinkable, he said as parliament met in the French city of Strasbourg.

"I am not the only one to think this. Clearly there are thousands and thousands of Poles who share this concern," Schulz added.

Poland's conservatives have only been back in power for a few weeks but have replaced the heads of the secret services and plan to overhaul state media and the Constitutional Court.

On Monday, Schulz told German radio that "what is happening in Poland has the characteristics of a coup and is dramatic".

His comments drew a swift demand for an apology from Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

"This type of comments -- and this is not the first time that president Schulz uses such a tone -- concerning Poland and Polish affairs, are unacceptable to me," Szydlo said.

Schulz told AFP he was generally wary of the inroads made by populist parties in the 28-nation European Union as they exploited increased fears over migration for political gain.

The European Commission is due to unveil in parliament later Tuesday plans to give the bloc unprecedented powers to protect the EU's external borders, intervening even if the host country objects as it tries to control the worst migrant crisis since World War II.

Poland has also objected strongly to those plans, calling them a serious infringement of national sovereignty.

But Schulz said this was not the case and the EU had to be able to intervene when member states could not meet their responsibilities to control the borders.

The Commission's plans were "a step in the right direction," he said.

© 2015 AFP

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