EU: Polish Ruling Threat 10/19 06:56
The European Union's top official locked horns Tuesday with Poland's prime
minister, arguing that a recent ruling from the country's constitutional court
challenging the supremacy of EU laws is a threat to the bloc's foundations and
won't be left unanswered.
BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's top official locked horns Tuesday with
Poland's prime minister, arguing that a recent ruling from the country's
constitutional court challenging the supremacy of EU laws is a threat to the
bloc's foundations and won't be left unanswered.
Addressing EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, European Commission president Ursula
von der Leyen said she is deeply concerned by the ruling, which she said is "a
direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order" and undermines the
protection of judicial independence.
"The rule of law is the glue that binds our union together," von der Leyen
Relations between Poland and the EU reached a new low earlier this month
after the tribunal ruled that Polish laws take precedence over those of the
27-nation bloc -- which Poland joined in 2004 -- escalating lingering tensions
over democratic standards between the country's right-wing nationalist
government and Brussels institutions.
The split came to a head at Tuesday's plenary of the European Parliament,
where Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended his country's stance
that the highest law of Poland is the country's constitution and that stands
above any other law.
But Morawiecki insisted that Poland abides by EU treaties and brushed off
comment from opponents of Poland's nationalist government who fear that the
court's ruling has put the country on a path to a possible "Polexit," or an
exit from the 27-nation EU.
"We should not be spreading further lies about Poland leaving the EU," he
At the heart of the dispute is the question who should have the most power
within the 27-nation bloc -- each individual nation over their citizens or the
EU institutions over the member nations. It was the prime mover behind the exit
of Britain from the EU, and it has stirred passions in several eastern and
central European nations like Poland and Hungary.
The whole idea behind the EU is that a united front will make the 27 nations
a formidable power in the world, while they would be bystanders as individual
countries. And even if member states are happy to see that power used in
international relations, some abhor it when it affects them.
In his speech, Morawiecki described Poland as a nation that is being
intimidated and attacked by an EU whose top court issues rulings that aim to
take more and more power away from its member states.
He insisted that the EU must remain a union of sovereign states until the
time that all its members agree by treaty to give up more of their own national
"We are now seeing a creeping revolution taking place by way of verdicts of
the European Court of Justice," he said.
He also said he sees double standards in the EU rulings on Poland's changes
to its judiciary, noting that each country has its own judicial system, with
politicians electing judges in some cases.
The European Commission has several options to try to make Warsaw comply
with EU law, notably by continuing to hold up the country's access to billions
of euros in European money to help revive its economy in the wake of the
"We cannot and we will not allow our common values to be put at risk. The
Commission will act," von der Leyen said.
The commission can also start infringement procedures, or decide to activate
a mechanism allowing the suspension of payments of EU money to a member country
breaching the principles of the rule of law in a way that affects the bloc's
budget or financial interests.
Von der Leyen, however, said she is open to compromise.
"I have always been a proponent of dialogue and I will always be," she said.
"This is a situation that can and must be resolved. And we want a strong Poland
in a united Europe."
The Polish tribunal majority ruling -- in response to a case brought by
Morawiecki -- said Poland's EU membership did not give the European Court of
Justice supreme legal authority and did not mean that Poland had shifted its
legal sovereignty to the EU.
Poland's prime minister asked for the review after the European Court of
Justice ruled in March that Poland's new regulations for appointing judges to
the Supreme Court could violate EU law. The ruling obliged Poland's government
to discontinue the rules that gave politicians influence over judicial
appointments. To date, Poland has not complied.
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 the laws that were deemed to undermine judicial