Between Poland and the European Union, the rag is burning. Enough in any case so that the threat of a rupture, the “Polexit”, is brandished. The country has drawn the wrath of the EU by challenging the primacy of European law over national law, Thursday, October 7.
The highest Polish court has in fact decreed that certain articles of the EU treaty were “incompatible” with the country’s constitution. The Polish Constitutional Court therefore ordered the European institutions not to “act beyond the scope of their competence”. In other words, not to interfere with the national justice system.
Deeply concerned by the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal.
is a community of values & laws. We will uphold the founding principles of the EU’s legal order.
Our utmost priority is to ensure that the rights of Polish citizens are protected.https://t.co/QcL2K0vltj
– Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) October 8, 2021
Poland and the European Union have been at odds for several years over judicial reforms introduced by Droit et Justice (PiS), the country’s ruling nationalist conservative party. This dispute with Brussels relates in particular to a new disciplinary system for judges which, according to the EU, seriously threatens the independence of the judiciary in Poland.
Overall, the Union considers that the various reforms undertaken threaten democracy and the rule of law in the country. The Polish government opposes the need to eradicate corruption in the judicial system and has chosen to ignore a provisional order of the Court of Justice of the European Union aimed at suspending the application of this new disciplinary system.
Also, last month, the European Commission called for a daily fine to be imposed on Poland, until it suspends judicial reforms. At the same time, the European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, warned that this affair could have “consequences” on the payment of stimulus funds to Poland. Indeed, the EU has yet to approve the 23 billion euros in grants and 34 billion euros in cheap loans planned for this country.
“The risk of a de facto exit”
Crying “blackmail”, Poland continued the standoff, until this decision challenging the primacy of European law, Thursday October 7th. The European executive expressed its “serious concern” at the Polish position which, according to Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, “calls into question several fundamental principles of the organization of the Union”.
The word “Polexit” was first uttered in the ranks of the European Parliament, outraged by the Polish attitude. In France, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, himself spoke of “the risk of a de facto exit” from the EU for Poland. A stinging warning for the country which entered the Union seventeen years ago. “It’s extremely serious, he reacted, this Friday, October 8. It is not a technical subject or a legal subject. It is an eminently political subject which is part of a long list of provocations against the EU ”.
Experts agree that the situation could indeed constitute a first step towards a “Polexit”, in any case if the country maintains its position: the decision taken against certain articles of the EU treaties has yet to be published. officially to have force of law. In the meantime, dissenting voices are getting organized. The centrist opposition, led by Donald Tusk, former President of the European Council, notably called for a rally on Sunday, in Warsaw, “to defend a European Poland”.
Warsaw says it wants to stay in the EU
Even Lech Walesa, historic leader of the Solidarnosc (“Solidarity” in French) union and the first president of post-communist Poland reacted, calling for new national elections to “save the honor” of his country. In response, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki assured on Facebook that “Poland’s place is and will be in the European family of nations”.
Seeking to minimize the impact of his country’s historic court ruling, the chief executive said the principle of the superiority of constitutional law over other sources of law had already been articulated by courts of other Member States. “We have the same rights as other countries. We want these rights to be respected. We are not an unwelcome guest in the European Union. And that is why we will not agree to be treated as a second category country, ”he wrote.
This Friday, October 8, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, rightly reminded all the EU countries of their responsibilities: “Our treaties are very clear. All decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU are binding on all authorities in member states, including national courts. EU law takes precedence over national law, including constitutional provisions ”.
Insisting that “this is what all EU member states have signed up to”, Ursula von der Leyen added: “We will use all the powers we have under the Treaties to ensure this”. “Deeply concerned”, the German official indicated that the Commission must study “in detail and quickly” this Polish decision, before defining the “next steps”.