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Nov 11, 2018: Poland turns 100 with reason to celebrate but at odds with partners

POLAND - Poland, seen as the most successful and dynamic economy of any former communist country, turns 100 in a slide toward the far right that has set it at odds with its partners.

The parades, fireworks and events on the day commemorate Poland’s independence on Nov 11, 1918, the end of World War 1, after 123 years of partition by Russia, Austria and Prussia. The annual Independence Day march in Warsaw has become something of a magnet for white supremacists and far-right groups from across Europe since it began in 2009.

Andrzej Duda of the conservative Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party (PiS) was voted into power in 2015, with the party taking more votes than any other group. German broadcaster DW predicted at the time that Poland’s eurosceptic move might prompt bumpy relations between Warsaw and Brussels, a prediction that has proved accurate.

Duda appointed 27 new Supreme Court judges in October, despite internal and European Union pressure not do so, and earlier in the year the government lowered the retirement age of judges. Opponents say the move, which forced many judges to retire, aims to appoint favourable replacements.

In another move criticized by Brussels, the Polish parliament took direct control of state media in Jul 2017. It also took measures to paralyze the constitutional tribunal – the country’s highest judicial body, which rules on the legality of government actions.

The European Union has launched a formal “infringement procedure” against three of its member nations – the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland – for failing to comply with a 2015 agreement to harbour asylum-seekers.

The Europeans also rebuked Poland for recent legislation making it illegal to claim that Poland was “responsible or co-responsible” for Nazi crimes committed while the country was brutally occupied by the Third Reich during World War II. Washington and Israel have also rebuked Poland for the law. PiS argues that the measure is intended to protect Poland’s reputation and clarify its history.

While it was occupied by the Third Reich, Poland was the site of Nazi-run concentration camps in which millions of Jews, Slavs and Communists were killed. Many Poles actively resisted the Germans and were executed, but other accounts reveal Poles were complicit in the atrocities. Poland has long objected to phrases that suggest shared responsibility for Nazi Germany’s actions.

#22503 Updated: 10/11/2018 UPDATED OCT 11 TO ADD DISPUTE WITH EU ABOUT SUPREME COURT JUDGES

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