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Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki reshuffles cabinet ahead of EU talks

Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, in a bid to avert possible sanctions, has announced cabinet changes before meeting with EU officials. He has replaced the foreign and defense ministers but the justice minister will stay.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaking at the swearing in of his new cabinet

Poland's new conservative Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has fired the country's foreign, defense and environmental ministers before heading to Brussels in an attempt to avert EU sanctions. Morawiecki, who took over from Beata Szydlo after her resignation on December 11, replaced controversial Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz — a key ally of the ruling Law and Justice Party's (PiS) all-powerful leader Jaroslaw Kaczinski — with Interior Minister Marius Blaszczak on Tuesday.

Read more: Poland’s Macron? Morawiecki takes the helm

'We don't want to be dogmatic' 

Morawiecki also removed Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski from his post, replacing him with Vice Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz. Environmental Minister Jan Szysko, who led the fight for logging in Poland's Bialowieza National Park, one of the last primeval forests in Europe, will be replaced by Henryk Kowalczyk.

Announcing the changes, which now include the ministers for health and digitalization, Morawiecki said: "We don't want to be a dogmatic, doctrinaire or extremist government; we want to be a government that draws together the economy and society, as well as the European and global dimensions with a local level." 

Read more: Rising nationalism and the EU's split with the East

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Not everyone is leaving

It is suspected that the replacements were urged by Polish President Andrzej Duda who has had difficulty going along completely with changes to the country's justice system, for instance; changes insisted upon by Kaczyinski. Such tampering with the justice system as well as media laws recently forced the EU to take the highly-unusual step of invoking article 7 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty. Despite that, the author of those controversial justice reforms, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, will keep his post.

Read more: Opinion: Poland will be the EU's biggest challenge in 2018

Juncker: EU 'not at war with Poland'

The EU's decision was seen as a stern warning that could potentially result in Poland forfeiting its right to vote within the EU and face further sanctions still. It was the first time in the history of the EU that the European Commission decided to trigger article 7. Prime Minister Morawiecki will meet with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels Tuesday evening to discuss relations between Poland and the supranational body. Reacting to the announcement, Juncker said that the EU was, "not at war with Poland," but emphasized the need for dialogue.

Read more: Opinion: The Polish people are the big losers

Good behavior for cash?

It is largely thought that the Polish cabinet reshuffle was intended to be a clear indication of the country's desire to improve relations. The EU's seven-year budget determining which countries will receive EU funds in the future is also slated to be discussed Tuesday. Poland is the biggest recipient of EU funding.

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EU takes disciplinary steps against Poland

js/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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