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State of the Union: Polish judicial reforms struck down & major Ukraine dam bursts

People with pets are evacuated on a boat from a flooded neighbourhood in Kherson, Ukraine, Thursday, June 8, 2023.
People with pets are evacuated on a boat from a flooded neighbourhood in Kherson, Ukraine, Thursday, June 8, 2023. Copyright LIBKOS/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright LIBKOS/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Stefan Grobe
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The EU's top court ruled that Warsaws changes to its judiciary were incompatible with European law.

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It was a bad week for Poland's right-wing government after the European Court of Justice ruled that several aspects of the country's judicial reforms violated EU law.

And this law is what defines the EU’s “very identity”, the judges in Luxembourg said on Monday.

In response to the ruling, the Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said the Court was “corrupt”.

The controversial judicial reform is not the only way the Polish government wants to cement its power though. Its new law, ostensibly to counter Russian influence, is designed to curb the running room of political opponents, critics say.

This had aroused the suspicion of the European Commission which, just two days after the ruling, went on the offensive.

"The College [of Commissioners] agreed to start an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice in relation to the new law on the state committee for examination of Russian influence," European Commission Vice-President, Valdis Dombrovskis said.

This week’s ruling and the announced new proceedings mean that Poland could face further EU fines – and would not see any of the pandemic recovery money that Brussels is withholding to force Warsaw to comply with EU law any time soon.

Dam blown in Ukraine

There is one topic, though, where Poland has proven to be a reliable partner, and that is its steadfast support of Ukraine - which brings us to the horrifying escalation of the war this week.

A huge Soviet-era dam on the Dnipro River that separates Ukrainian and Russian forces in southern Ukraine was breached. It unleashed floodwaters across the combat zone.

More than 40,000 people were at risk from the mass flooding, many of them have been evacuated, several have drowned  in what has been described as a humanitarian and ecological disaster of monumental proportions.

At the same time, and this was a curious coincidence, Russia and Ukraine met for hearings at the International Court of Justice in the Hague in a case brought by Kyiv against Moscow, linked to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Seizing an unexpected opportunity, representatives of both sides accused each other of acts of sabotage and destruction.

"Russia cannot defeat us on the battlefield. So, it targets civilian infrastructure to try to freeze us into submission," Anton Korynevych, a Ukrainian diplomat said.

"Actually, Ukraine did it. The Kyiv regime not only launched massive artillery attacks against the dam (…), but it also deliberately raised the water level of the Kakhovka reservoir to a critical level by opening the gates," Russian diplomat Alexander Shulgin responded.

It is still not clear what happened, although Western capitals seemed to put the blame on Russia.

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And some see it as a desperate attempt by Putin to escalate a war he has not been winning so far.

Is this the beginning of Putin’s end game? Is this his strategy to destroy the things he cannot get?

Sven Biscop, Director for Europe in the World programme at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels told Euronews not just yet.

"For the moment, one sees very few signs of this and it seems that there is still strong popular support for the war," Biscop said in an interview.

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"That may evolve, but for the moment it is there. It is also difficult to see who might take the initiative to push Putin away, because this would obviously be an enormous risk. And I think the only ones who can do that are those who are in control of military force. 

"So, for the moment, I think we better base our strategy on the most likely scenario, which is that the regime will stay in power and will continue the war."

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