Poland on collision course with EU as PM accuses Brussels of ‘usurping democracy’

EU facing 'extremely difficult' legal row as top Poland court kicks out Brussels laws

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And the bloc has hit back, suggesting “very serious issues in relation to the primacy of EU law” were at stake, with increasing chatter about Poland following the UK’s example with a so-called Polexit. Poland’s nationalist government has been at odds with the European Commission in Brussels over judicial reforms, media freedoms and LGBT rights since taking power in 2015.

We are at a crucial moment, you could say at a crossroads in the EU’s history

Mateusz Morawiecki

However, a recent court ruling that parts of EU law are incompatible with the Polish constitution has brought matters to a head.

Mr Morawiecki, a member of the Law and Justice Party, told the Polish parliament: “We are at a crucial moment, you could say at a crossroads in the EU’s history.

“Democracy is being tested – how far will European nations retreat before this usurpation by some EU institutions.”

The ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, an institution which the government’s critics claim has become politicised as part of reforms they say undermine judicial independence, challenges a key tenet of European integration.

Poland says the EU has overstepped its mandate by attempting to prevent the government’s judicial reforms, and that the Constitutional Tribunal ruling asserts the primacy of the Polish constitution in a way that is no different from rulings handed down by courts in other European countries.

Asked about Mr Morawiecki’s comments on Thursday, Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said the EU executive had “the task of safeguarding the proper functioning of the Union’s legal order and will ensure that the rights of Europeans under the Treaties will continue to be protected…”

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In a clear indication of rising concern in Brussels, Mr Wigand said an in-depth analysis of the Polish court ruling was underway, adding that an initial assessment pointed to “very serious issues in relation to the primacy of EU law”.

The court ruling could put at risk some €23billion in EU grants and €34 billion in cheap loans which Poland could otherwise count on as part of the EU’s recovery fund after the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has also spurred talk of a “Polexit”, though Warsaw insists it has no intention of following Britain out of the EU.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said Mr Morawiecki would attend the European Parliament session in Strasbourg next Tuesday to present Poland’s position in the rule of law dispute.

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The question of Poland’s strained relations with the EU has been a topic of conversation throughout the EU27 in recent months.

Speaking earlier this week, Michel Barnier, the EU’s former Chief Brexit negotiator poised to challenge French President Emmanuel Macron in next year’s election, chilling, raised a question mark over Warsaw’s ongoing membership.

He told broadcaster BFM TV: “In Poland it is not a question of law, it is a political question. It is very serious.

“The Polish people, the current government, is trying to coerce and frustrate justice. That is serious.

“That is why they say that the European treaties are against their constitution. This is very serious.”

He added: “This issue should be dealt with politically and the European Council, the Council of Heads of State and Government, should ask the Polish people whether or not they want to remain in the EU. “

Referring to his own country’s adherence to EU law, Mr Barnier said: “We made a commitment. We have to respect treaties.

“That is what we do and what I will do.”

“Yes, European law has primacy over French law, but not over our constitution.”

He said: “I think we should ask Poland if they want to be in the EU.

“What is serious is that in 2004 they joined the EU. They knew what they were doing.

“They accepted the treaties. Doing this now is extremely serious.”

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