EU executive criticizes Polish minister in ongoing dispute

FILE PHOTO: Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski arrives at meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin in Warsaw, Poland, March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission, the EU’s executive, on Monday accused Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski of not understanding its role as a dispute over government pressure on Poland’s judiciary and state media intensified.

The eurosceptic, nationalist-minded government in Warsaw has been accused by critics at home, and by some other EU states, of infringing democratic rules.

Waszczykowski has locked horns on multiple occasions with the Commission’s deputy head, Frans Timmermans, who says the Polish government’s moves to subdue the judiciary and state media violate EU values and laws.

Waszczykowski was quoted as saying over the weekend that Timmermans was waging a “personal crusade” against Poland.

But on Monday, in unusually direct remarks, Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said it regretted “that a government minister does not understand the Commission’s role, structure and competences”.

“The Commission is the guardian of the treaties, of common interests of the 28 member states, and of the rule of law.”

Timmermans earlier this month received broad backing from other EU states to pursue his efforts with Poland, where the government of the Law and Justice party says it has a strong mandate to carry out changes.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Andrew Bolton