Senior EU official says Polish move threatens bloc
BRUSSELS (AP) – The top European Union official held talks with the Polish prime minister on Tuesday, arguing that a recent ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court challenging the supremacy of EU laws is a threat to the foundations of the bloc and will not go unanswered.
Speaking to EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed deep concern over the decision, which she said poses “a direct challenge to the unity of the ‘EU’ and undermines the protection of judicial independence.
“The rule of law is the glue that binds our union together,” said von der Leyen.
Relations between Poland and the EU hit a new low earlier this month after the court ruled that Polish laws took precedence over those of the 27-nation bloc, which Poland joined in 2004, exacerbating the persistent tensions over democratic standards between right-wing nationalists of the country’s government and Brussels institutions.
The split came to a head during the plenary session of the European Parliament on Tuesday, where Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended his country’s position that Poland’s highest law is the country’s constitution and which stands above any other law.
But Morawiecki insisted that Poland abides by EU treaties and rejected comments from opponents of the Polish nationalist government who fear the court ruling has put the country on the path to a possible ” Polexit ”or an exit from the EU to 27 countries.
“We should not be spreading more lies about Poland’s exit from the EU,” he said, adding that his country would not be intimidated and expects a constructive dialogue.
At the heart of the dispute is the question of who should have the most power within the bloc of 27 nations – each individual nation over its citizens or the EU institutions over member nations. It was the main driving force behind Britain’s exit from the EU and aroused passions in several Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary.
The idea behind the EU is that a united front will make the 27 nations a formidable power in the world, while being spectators as individual countries. And while member states are happy to see this power used in international relations, some hate it when it affects them.
Depending on how the Polish government decides to use the latest decision, the committee has other financial options to try to bring Warsaw into line with EU law, including continuing to block the country’s access. billions of euros in European money to help jumpstart its economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We cannot and will not allow our shared values to be jeopardized. The Commission will act, “said von der Leyen.
The committee could also activate a mechanism allowing the suspension of payments of EU money to a member country violating rule of law principles in a way that affects the bloc’s budget or financial interests.
“We want a strong Poland in a united Europe,” said von der Leyen, adding that it was open to everyone.
The majority decision of the court – in response to a case brought by Morawiecki – said that Poland’s accession to the EU did not give the European Court of Justice supreme legal authority and did not mean that Poland had transferred its legal sovereignty to the EU.
The Polish prime minister called for the review after the European Court of Justice ruled in March that Poland’s new regulations for the appointment of Supreme Court judges could violate EU law. The ruling forced the Polish government to abolish rules that gave politicians influence over judicial appointments. To date, Poland has not done so.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, recently said that Poland wants to be part of the EU, but that it respects its own rules and treaties, which means the independence of the member countries of the block. Law and Justice adopted a resolution in mid-September declaring that Poland wishes to remain a member of the EU.
Last month, the European Commission asked the European Court of Justice to impose daily fines on Poland until it improves the functioning of the Polish Supreme Court and suspends new laws considered to undermine the judicial independence.
Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this story
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