February 11, 2016

Cardin, McCain, Durbin Urge Polish Government to Recommit to the Rule of Law, Human Rights, Protection of Media

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) have written to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland urging her to restore Poland’s position as a leading democracy in Central Europe. In the letter to Prime Minister Beata Szyd?o, the senators expressed support for a strong bilateral relationship as well as concerns regarding recently passed Polish laws that could infringe on fundamental values including freedom of the press and an independent judiciary. The Senators encouraged her government to reinforce its respect for universal human rights, the rule of law, and adherence to liberal democratic principles.

 

“We are strong advocates for our robust bilateral relationship. It is in that spirit in which we appeal to you -- we urge you to recommit to the shared democratic values enshrined in the Helsinki Accords and EU charter as a means towards ensuring stability, prosperity and peace in Europe,” Cardin, McCain and Durbin wrote. 

 

The full text of the letter follows and can be downloaded here.

 

The Honorable Beata Szyd?o

Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland

00-583 Warsaw
Al. Ujazdowskie 1/3

 

Dear Prime Minister Szyd?o:

 

We represent a bipartisan group of Senators that are friends of Poland and have close ties to Polish-American communities in the United States. We are writing to express concern about recent actions taken by the Polish Government that threaten the independence of state media and the country’s highest court and undermine Poland’s role as a democratic model for other countries in the region still going through difficult transitions. We urge your government to recommit to the core principles of the OSCE and the EU, including the respect for democracy, human rights, and rule of law that has made Poland such a strong and vibrant member of the Community of Democracies and a stalwart ally of the United States in the heart of Central Europe. 

 

Last month, the European Commission for the first time used its powers under the Rule of Law Framework to open a preliminary assessment into two recently passed pieces of Polish legislation to determine whether they breach the EU’s “fundamental values”. We understand that the first law would curb the ability of the Constitutional Court to use its powers to strike down laws that it determines to be unconstitutional. We understand that the second law would threaten the independence of state broadcasters and press freedom in the country.  These laws could serve to diminish democratic norms in Poland, including the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.  An erosion of democracy in Poland would undermine liberal institutions that have successfully expanded prosperity, peace, stability, and tolerance within Europe at a time when these institutions are greatly needed. 

 

Since the fall of communism, Poland’s successful integration into Western institutions has produced an economically prosperous and militarily strong example for the region’s post-communist states to follow. Poland’s accession into NATO more than 16 years ago has strengthened the alliance’s eastern flank and created a bulwark against further Russian incursions into Eastern Europe. U.S.-Polish relations have flourished due to membership in shared institutions, commitment to liberal ideals, and strong diaspora ties between our two countries. 

 

We are strong advocates for our robust bilateral relationship. It is in that spirit in which we appeal to you -- we urge you to recommit to the shared democratic values enshrined in the Helsinki Accords and EU charter as a means towards ensuring stability, prosperity and peace in Europe. 

 

Sincerely,