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EU lawmakers want action over 'continuing deterioration of democracy' in Poland


WARSAW (Reuters) - The European Union must act against Poland's nationalist government for undermining democracy, a European Parliament committee said on Thursday after the re-election of a conservative president in the ex-communist country.

A report by the EU parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs criticised the "continuing deterioration of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights in Poland" under the eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party.

President Andrzej Duda, a conservative allied with PiS, narrowly defeated a liberal challenger in Sunday's vote, reinforcing the PiS's push to consummate reforms of the judiciary and media that the EU and international rights groups say subject both to state control.

Duda's campaign was also filled with promises to protect what PiS defines as Catholic Polish traditions from any influence from gays, Germans or Jews.

The EU parliament committee voted 52-15 in favour of the report calling on the other 26 EU countries to advance a rule of law procedure against Warsaw that, in theory, could lead to a suspension of Poland's voting rights in the bloc.

The report, which will be debated by the whole parliament soon, came a day before national EU leaders meet to haggle over a mass economic stimulus to help member state economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The European Parliament will have to approve any deal between member states on their next joint budget worth nearly 1.1 trillion euros and an attached economic recovery fund envisaged at 750 billion euros.

The report's authors said solid democratic safeguards would be a precondition for approving the recovery package.

The wealthy, mainly liberal western EU states that will provide most of the resources for joint spending want to link recovery funding to respect for the rule of law, an approach Poland and its eurosceptic ally Hungary reject.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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