On Tuesday, the European Parliament debated the issue of EU funding for Poland, with left-wing MEPs calling on the EU to continue blocking financial aid to the country currently run by the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS). During the debate, a war of words erupted between Polish MEP Dominik Tarczyński and European Parliament Vice-President Katerina Barley, who has long called for funding to be cut to both Hungary and Poland.
Tarczyński, who serves in Poland’s ruling party, recalled Barley’s comments from two years ago, saying, “I would like to ask if it’s true that you said that Poland should be starved financially? Just indicate with your head yes or no. Did you use those words? Are you aware of how they sound in Poland, a country in which people starved to death as a result of what the Germans did? Can you appreciate what many Poles and Jews who starved at the hands of the Germans during the war must have felt at hearing such words?“ asked Tarczyński. The MEP also posted a clip of the debate, writing, “Another debate about Poland is currently underway. Mrs. Katarina Barley claims that she never said anything about starving Poles. This is what a debate about facts looks like in the EP.”
As noted, the German MEP hit back and denied having ever used the term “starve” in reference to Poles. “I have said it a million times; no, I never said that. I used the word when I was referring to corruption in Hungary. Maybe you [Dominik Tarczyński] know where the money goes in Hungary. All I said back then, is that we should make that source go dry, I said nothing about Poland,” said Barley.
However, Barley’s contention appears to be misleading. Barley did in fact mention Poland when talking about “starving” both Hungary and Poland, saying that EU citizens do not want their tax money to go to the Orbán and Kaczyński “regimes,” as Barley described them. Numerous Twitter users pointed to the original radio interview she gave on the subject.
Barley made the comments in October 2020 during a German radio interview where she called for more pressure to be applied to Poland and Hungary. Barley called for withholding EU subsidies and, specifically, “starving” Viktor Orbán financially, but then also called for money to be withheld from both Hungary and Poland.
“EU funds are an effective form of leverage,” she said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen came under fire from MEPs for her decision to accept the Polish government’s operational program despite the dispute between the commission and Poland over rule-of-law compliance, according to Polish news outlet Dorzeczy. Tens of billions of euros due to Poland are currently frozen, but according to von der Leyen, if Poland reaches certain “milestones” in its judicial reform, the funds will slowly be unlocked.
In Tuesday’s debate, Barley criticized the European Commission for failing to demand that the Polish judiciary should at least be “in line with the principle of the rule of law. The reform proposed by Warsaw is not enough to ensure compliance with the rule of law as it evades the central issues involved.”