Poland’s justice minister dismissed an EU commissioner’s criticism of new media regulations as “silly” in a confrontational letter that marked a low in the new government’s relations with the bloc and the commissioner’s home Germany.
Minister Zbigniew Ziobro questioned Berlin’s own record on media freedoms and alluded to Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland during World War Two in the message to EU commissioner Gunther Oettinger.
Relations between Poland and the European Union have deteriorated since the Law and Justice party (PiS) won elections in October on a Eurosceptic platform.
Oettinger, responsible for the bloc’s policy on society, said last week the EU’s largest eastern member should be put under supervision over its plans to put Polish public TV and radio broadcasters under state control and to change the makeup of the constitutional court.
“I am not in the habit of replying to silly comments on Poland made by foreign politicians,” Ziobro wrote to Oettinger in a letter published by state news agency PAP on Saturday.
“Such words, said by a German politician, cause the worst of connotations among Poles. Also in me. I’m a grandson of a Polish officer, who during World War II fought in the underground National Army with ‘German supervision’,” he said.
The National Army was the main Polish resistance movement during World War Two, while “supervision” appeared to be a reference to the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Ziobro, whose party advocates higher state spending and conservative Catholic values, also accused German authorities of trying to cover up news of attacks on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.
“I came to a sad conclusion that it is easier for you to talk about fictitious threats to media freedom in other countries than to condemn censorship in your homeland,” Ziobro wrote.
There was no immediate reaction from Brussels or Berlin to the letter.
The EU executive has written to Poland asking how the new media law, giving the treasury minister the right to appoint heads of state-run broadcasters, tallies with EU rules on media freedoms. Poland dismissed those concerns.
The government’s law changes prompted protests, rattled investors and drew accusations from rights activists that PiS is undermining democratic checks and balances in a country long seen as a bulwark of economic and political stability in Europe.