Poland. The new government, which took office before the New Year, came into conflict during the year with the opposition and the EU on the politicization of the judiciary and restrictions on democratic freedoms and rights.
The criticism was harsh against a law passed by Parliament (in December) which was considered to limit the independence of the Constitutional Court and its ability to carry out its mission. The National Conservative Government Party Law and Justice was accused of undermining democracy.
In January, President Andrzej Duda signed another controversial law, which gave the government control over public service media. The Minister of Finance was empowered to appoint and dismiss managers in state radio and television. According to Law and Justice, control was necessary for the media to serve what was described as patriotic values and national traditions.
Tens of thousands of Poles demonstrated in Warsaw and other cities in protest of the media law. Criticism also came from the outside world, and the law was reported to the Council of Europe by European journalists.
According to countryaah, the current population of Poland is 37,846,622. The European Commission decided to initiate a rule of law against Poland. It was the first time the EU decided to seriously consider whether a government’s actions seriously violated the freedoms and rights enshrined in the EU Treaty.
Parliament voted through another law that gave the Minister of Justice control over the Prosecutor’s Office and the opportunity to intervene in prosecutors’ investigations. Parliament also decided on increased powers for police and security services to monitor Internet traffic. The law received harsh criticism from opposition, lawyers and data inspection, among others.
In February, the government issued a new investigation into the 2010 Russian Federation air crash, when, among others, President Lech Kaczyński was killed. The issue had long been driven by Kaczyński’s twin brother Jarosław Kaczyński, party leader for Law and Justice, who claimed that the Russian Federation was at fault. The Justice Minister’s new powers gave the government more direct control over the investigation, and among other things, a contentious decision was made to open the victims’ graves for new investigations of the bodies.
An infected debate followed when President Duda accused former President Lech Wałęsa of collaborating with the Communist-era security service with the help of previously secret documents. Wałęsa denied but acknowledged that he had made a mistake, as he put it. The Prosecutor General launched an investigation into the matter, while thousands of people went out in demonstration in support of Wałęsa and in protest against the government.
In March, the Constitutional Court declared that the change in its work violated the Constitution. The court received support on Facebook by over 50,000 Poles and almost as many went out in support demonstration.
A resolution in the European Parliament accused the Polish government of violating the Constitution and undermining the rule of law, but the government went ahead and appointed new judges to the Constitutional Court.
In May, a large protest was held in Warsaw against the government. According to the opposition, about 200,000 people participated, who accused Law and Justice of threatening democracy and jeopardizing Poland’s European future.
According to thereligionfaqs, the European Commission demanded changes in the Constitutional Court in May, but according to Prime Minister Beata Szydło, the government did not intend to give in to pressure. In July, however, Parliament voted in favor of amending the Constitutional Court Act. New changes came in August, but neither the opposition nor the European Commission were satisfied.
During the summer, a military maneuver was carried out in Poland with over 30,000 soldiers from 24 NATO countries. At the NATO Summit in Warsaw, it became clear that around 1,000 NATO soldiers will be stationed in Poland from spring 2017 in the light of the Russian Federation security policy threat.
The conflict between the Constitutional Court and the government intensified, and the European Commission called for a solution to the constitutional crisis. New protests were held against the government with tens of thousands of protesters, when health care workers also participated and demanded higher wages and more resources for health care.
A bill on a total ban on abortion, with the exception of danger to the life of the mother, was met by thousands of protesters outside Parliament. The Catholic Church had broken the ban, which was supported by the government. An extensive strike was also carried out in protest against the abortion proposal, where thousands of women quit the job. The widespread protests led the government to withdraw its support from the proposed ban on abortion.
After a terrorist attack in Brussels, the government declared that Poland did not intend to receive the 7,000 refugees who, according to previous decisions, would be redistributed from southern Europe. They mentioned, among other things, the risk that there might be terrorists among the refugees.
In December, opposition members in parliament barricaded themselves in protest of the government’s plan to restrict media work there. They were supported by protesters across the country and the government was forced to withdraw its proposal.