Polish PM queries EU's response to virus in Spanish daily El Mundo

Polish PM slams EU's response to virus in Spanish daily El Mundo. EL MUNDO/Twitter

Slow reactions and individual interests of the member states are the European Union's main problems, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, published on Friday.

Morawiecki told El Mundo that Poland had introduced restrictions related to the spreading coronavirus epidemic without waiting for a joint stance from the EU and did it "out of concern for the safety of all citizens" and not due to political calculations.

Quoting expert estimates, the prime minister said Poland could be facing 30,000-60,000 additional infections had the government not introduced restrictions. On Wednesday, the number of infected people exceeded 7,500 in Poland, he added.

Most shops in shopping centres have remained closed in Poland since March 13, when the government announced limitations on shopping malls, the closure of pubs, restaurants, bars and casinos, a ban on public gatherings and a temporary entry ban on foreigners. On March 24, the government tightened the measures, imposing a national lockdown, during which Poles could leave their homes only for essential purposes. Restrictions also affected shops and public transport.

According to Morawiecki, the coronavirus epidemic revealed, just like the previous debt crisis of 2008, the existing contradictions among euro zone members.

"Today one can clearly see that this problem has not been resolved. I very much regret that the current crisis has again hit the south of Europe most. (...) A situation where profits are shared, and some (EU members - PAP) benefit from the single market even more than others, while losses are attributed individually, is politically unsustainable and is today a threat to the euro zone and, consequently, to the whole European Union," the Polish PM argued.

Morawiecki said Poland was trying to carry out a stable fiscal policy, and praised the fact that the country had stuck to its national currency, which, according to him, helped Warsaw weather the previous crisis.

The current problems of the EU should be an impulse for the bloc's reforms, the prime minister also said.

Morawiecki also said that despite existing disagreements, "strategic cooperation between Europe and the United States should always come first."

He went on to say that the EU should be more open to new members, including the Balkan states, as well as stepping up cooperation with Ukraine and Belarus.

In the face of the biggest financial turbulence since World War II, the EU's response to the crisis should be ambitious, with a strong relief package that would help spur the EU's economy and an adequate multi-year budget, he added.

Referring to the ongoing conflict between Brussels and Warsaw over Poland's judiciary reforms, Morawiecki expressed hope that the EU will start to treat Poland just like other EU member states, arguing that the changes were necessary as "previously, the justice system was unable to reform itself, and the number of reprehensible or even shameful acts and verdicts had been growing year after year."

The Polish conservative government, which came into power in late 2015, has been in conflict with the European Commission (EC), the EU's executive arm, over the judiciary reforms that the EC says violate EU values. In 2017, for the first time in the EU's history, the EC triggered the rule of law procedure against Warsaw under Article 7 of the EU treaty.