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.
countryaah, 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
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
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
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