Wed, 08 Dec 2021

Europe worries Poland could follow UK and leave EU

Robert Besser
13 Oct 2021, 01:29 GMT+10

WARSAW, Poland: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has set an unprecedented challenge to one of the European Union's (EU) core legal principles, which has escalated his government's dispute with Brussels and caused fears of a "Polexit."

Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, ruled late last week that key articles of one of the EU's primary treaties were not compatible with Polish law, essentially rejecting the primacy of EU law over national legislation in certain judicial areas.

Afterward, France warned that Poland's exit from the EU is now a "de facto risk," and the French and German foreign ministers, on Friday, stressed that EU membership relied upon "complete and unconditional adherence to common values and rules" and this was "not simply a moral commitment, but is also a legal commitment."

"In practical terms, this ruling introduces aspects of a legal Polexit, because it will deepen the problem of judicial co-operation between Polish and European courts," said Patryk Wachowiec of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, as reported by the BBC.

Morawiecki, a member of Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party, brought the challenge to shield the country's legal system against rulings from the EU's top court during the past six years, and aims to stop Polish judges from using EU law to question the status of their colleagues, he added.

The European Commission stressed that the changes caused by the ruling will undermine judicial independence and open courts to political interference.

Both Morawiecki and Poland's most powerful politician, PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said Poland wants to stay in the EU and admitted that membership has provided billions of euros to invest in projects and access to the single market, but they accuse the country's divided opposition of spreading "fake news" to frighten the Polish people, who largely support EU membership.

Last month, Ryszard Terlecki, head of the ruling PiS party's parliamentary caucus, said the UK proved "the dictatorship of the Brussels bureaucracy" could be defeated by leaving.

In response, Donald Tusk, former European Council president and current head of Poland's largest opposition group, Civic Coalition, urged the public to protest against the ruling at a Warsaw rally on Sunday.

A $66 billion COVID-19 recovery plan, which the Polish government needs to finance its flagship "Polish Deal," has not been approved by the European Commission, and some have suggested the Polish government is using the ruling as leverage at the negotiating table.

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