Poland chides France's Macron for backing tougher line on Warsaw

By Marcin Goettig and Lidia Kelly
Emmanuel Macron (C), head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, shakes hands with a youth during a campaign visit in Sarcelles, near Paris, April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Martin Bureau

By Marcin Goettig and Lidia Kelly

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish officials called French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's call for European Union sanctions against Poland a violation of friendship and a "fantasy".

The centrist Macron, tipped to win a run-off against eurosceptic far-right leader Marine Le Pen on May 7, said on Thursday that if elected he would pursue a tougher line with Poland and other countries he believed were infringing EU democratic principles.

"I understand that an election campaign has its rhetoric, but there must be limits to voicing one's opinion," Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told the wPolityce.pl web portal on Friday.

"These comments are violating European standards and the principles of friendship with Poland."

Poland's government, headed by the nationalist-minded Law and Justice Party since late 2015, has been under fire from the EU over an overhaul of the country's constitutional court, which Brussels says weakens the independence of the judiciary and could undermine democratic checks and balances.

The European Commission has so far stopped short of any further action, but it is to present a report on the rule of law in Poland at a meeting on May 16, according to the Polish state radio.

The bickering with Macron further sours already fragile relations with France, which deteriorated after Poland last year called off a $3.5-billion contract for military multipurpose helicopters from Airbus, without giving much explanation.

On Friday, Polish Parliament Speaker Marek Kuchcinski was quoted as saying by state-run media that Macron's words were "a careless, misinforming statement" used as part his election campaign and that sanctions against Poland were a "fantasy".

Speaking after a visit to a Whirlpool tumble-dryer factory in France, whose workers are protesting the manufacturer's decision to move some of its production to Poland, Macron said Warsaw was exploiting differences in labour costs, which couldn't be tolerated.

He alluded to the problem of social dumping - a hot-button issue in France - which refers to companies employing cheaper labour from other EU countries or moving production to lower-wage countries.

Konrad Szymański, Poland's deputy foreign minister in charge of European affairs, told Polish state radio on Friday that if a country loses the battle for foreign investment, it should not use a confrontational language.

"It should consider what is wrong with the French economy that it ceases to attract foreign investment," Szymanski said.

(Writing by Lidia Kelly; editing by Ralph Boulton)