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Macron visits Poland in a bid to improve bilateral relations

File photo (L to R) of  Polish President Andrzej Duda and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.
File photo (L to R) of Polish President Andrzej Duda and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron met up with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Warsaw this Monday, beginning a two-day official visit to the country in a bid to solidify ties with the right-leaning government, but also questioned recent changes to its judiciary.

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“I spoke with President Duda with the honesty we owe each other as European partners, about the concerns that the ongoing reforms of the judicial system have given rise to,” said Macron, referring to changes that would bring the judiciary under political control.

The right-wing ruling Law and Justice party broke EU law, according to a ruling by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice last November, when it changed the retirement age for judges from 67 to a lower age, depending on whether the judge was male or female.

Polish magistrates say this was a way to replace impartial judges with loyalists to the Law and Justice party.

“I wish for the dialogue with the European Commission to intensify in coming weeks because I know that the values of freedom and justice are ingrained in Poland and throughout its history,” added Macron.

According to RFI correspondent Gulliver Cragg in Warsaw, Macron has been very vocal on Poland’s backsliding on the rule of law.

“Since coming to power in 2015, the ruling Law and Justice party in Poland has pursued a series of reforms that the EU Commission and various legal experts see as giving the government full control over the courts,” says Cragg.

“This destroys the separation of political and judicial power, which underpins liberal democracy,” he added.

Solidifying European solidarity

Although Macron has previously been critical of the Polish government, he made a point of saying he would like this visit to be a “turning point” in bilateral relations.

France has repeatedly called for talks with Russia on its seizure of the Crimean Peninsula, while Poland has pushed for sanctions against Russia.

“France is pro-European,” said Macron. “It is not in our interest to have a situation where we don’t face up to our relationship with Russia, letting unresolved conflicts pile up and misunderstandings persist,” he added.

Given the hole in EU solidarity with the departure of Britain, Macron is looking towards reviviving a former tripartite alliance within the EU, composed of France, Germany and Poland.

On Tuesday, Macron will go to Krakow to visit Wawel Castle and give a speech at Jagielloian University on European values.

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