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Justice minister accuses EU of 'attack' on Polish democracy

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's justice minister accused the European Union of waging an “attack on democracy" after the European Parliament passed a resolution criticizing lax adherence to the rule of law and discrimination against women, LGBT people and minorities in the EU member-state.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro called the resolution “absurd” and an assault on the “true rule of law" and said Poland would fight efforts to cut the country's EU funding over the allegations. Ziobro said the EU was trying to impose its agenda and values on Poland while disrespecting the majority views in the largely conservative and Roman Catholic nation.

The minister said both Poland and fellow EU member Hungary “are a constant target of leftist attacks." Once considered models for a democratic transition from communist rule, Poland and Hungary in recent years have become challenges for the bloc, with many other European countries now critical of what they see as backsliding.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, on a visit to Lithuania, said his government had “no major issues” with Brussels, but that there is a certain 'lack of understanding" by the EU of the need to mend Poland's justice system. He insisted Warsaw's explanations are bringing results and he sees a “change in the temperature” in discussions with the EU on the subject.

His Lithuanian counterpart, Saulius Skvernelis, said Lithuania will never back any sanctions on Poland and encouraged more dialogue. EU lawmakers, in their resolution on Poland this week, expressed concerns regarding the legislative and electoral system, the independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights. The resolution was adopted on a 513-148 vote, with 33 abstentions.

It followed a debate on Monday in which the Polish government faced strong criticism, particularly over new national laws that have increased political control over the courts and official pronouncements against LGBT rights.

The debate came after a Spanish lawmaker, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, prepared a report on fundamental rights in Poland. He said Thursday that Polish authorities “continue to operate in contempt of the European legal order.”

“The broad support for this report is the best response to the allegations about a ‘leftist conspiracy,’" López Aguilar said. “What the Polish government has forgotten is that democracy is not about majority rule, but about respecting EU law, pluralism, the right to dissent and protecting minorities.”

The head of the EU's executive arm, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in her first S tate of the Union address on Wednesday, also strongly denounced the stigmatization of LGBT people by authorities in Poland.