Poland’s Constitutional Court, the country’s highest judicial body, rejected in a ruling that European Union laws are above Poland’s, adding that some of the European treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution.
The ruling sparked discontent among several members and authorities of the bloc, who warned the Polish government that it could be left out of the European community if it did not abide by the community’s regulations.
What the ruling says
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki introduced a judicial reform in 2018 that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled is a violation of European law.
There are two particular points of the reform with which the EU disagrees:
1. The executive can change judges from one court to another without their consent, which the Polish government said was necessary to combat corruption in the judiciary.
2. Appointment of high court judges. According to the BBC, Morawiecki wanted to prevent Polish judges from using EU law to challenge the legitimacy of executive-appointed judges under the new reform.
As a result of the dispute, the ECJ ruled in March that the European Union can force its members to ignore specific national laws or even the constitution itself when it conflicts with the bloc’s law.
The prime minister appealed the ruling to Poland’s Constitutional Court, which ruled that European law could not be above Polish law.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who leads Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) in Parliament, welcomed the court’s ruling. However, he said that Brussels’ ability to overrule the Polish government meant that Poland “is not a sovereign state” and that Brussels “has no right to interfere” in Polish affairs.
What was the reaction?
According to a DW report, after the Polish ruling, the European Commission on Friday stated:
“EU law has primacy over national law, including constitutional provisions. All rulings by the European Court of Justice are binding on all member states’ authorities, including national courts… The (EU) Commission will not hesitate to make use of its powers under the treaties to safeguard the uniform application and integrity of Union law.”
According to Reuters, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, said, “We have to state clearly that this government in Poland is playing with fire. The primacy of European law is essential for the integration of Europe and living together in Europe. If this principle is broken, Europe as we know it, as it has been built with the Rome treaties, will cease to exist.”
French Europe Minister Clement Beaune called the ruling an ‘attack on the EU’ and said, “It is very serious… there is a risk of a de-facto exit of Poland from the EU”.
While the ruling stands, the European Union decided to withhold some 23 billion euros in pandemic relief funds and 34 billion for low-cost loans.
What the Polish government says about a possible ‘Polexit’
In a message posted on his Facebook account, Mr. Mateusz Morawiecki celebrated the Polish court ruling and called on the EU to respect the diversity of opinions of each member.
“We want a community of respect and not a grouping of those who are equal and more equal. This is our community, our Union. This is the kind of Union we want and that’s the kind of Union we will create,” the prime minister tweeted.
The Polish court ruling reignited the dispute between Poland’s nationalist government and the European Union, which on previous occasions had friction over the rather traditionalist stances of the Law and Justice Party (PiS).
Hungary is another bloc member that had conflicts with the ECJ rulings when the Orban government decided to ban the broadcasting of homosexual material in schools and kindergartens.
However, PiS chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski rejected the idea of a “Polexit,” saying Poland just wanted the European Union to stop “interfering.”
“There will be no Polexit… We unequivocally see Poland’s future in the European Union,” Kaczynski said according to France24.
According to media polls, unlike the United Kingdom, which left the bloc after a popular referendum supporting the proposal, Poland has 80 percent of its residents who want to remain in the Union.