Poland’s dispute with the EU over the primacy of EU law overshadows a summit of the 27 member states taking place in Brussels.
The EU can impose sanctions on Poland for a ruling by its supreme court that some parts of EU law are incompatible with the Polish constitution.
EU jurisprudence is based on the principle that EU law has supremacy over national laws. The Polish government has been accused of politicizing the judiciary.
The government accuses the EU of “blackmail”.
The dispute over the rule of law is active the summit agenda, but leaders will also discuss other major issues:
- the continuing challenges of vaccination against Covid-19, amid a new wave of infections
- the surge in energy prices affecting businesses and consumers
- climate change and the upcoming COP 26 summit in Glasgow
- migratory pressures, in particular tensions with neighboring Belarus, whose leader Alexander Lukashenko is accused of smuggling migrants as a way to take revenge on EU sanctions.
Upon arrival, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “the rule of law is a fundamental aspect of the European Union”. “At the same time, we have to find a way to get back together, because a cascade of cases at the European Court is not a solution”.
The dispute has sharpened the gap between the nationalists in power in Poland and neighboring Hungary and the liberal politicians who are the majority across the EU. Opinion polls suggest that the overwhelming majority of Poles support their country’s accession to the EU.
On Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki clashed in the European Parliament with the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
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On Thursday he again accused the Commission of exceeding its legal mandate, stating that “we will not act under the pressure of blackmail.
“We are ready for dialogue. We disagree with the constantly expanding range of skills [of the EU] but we will obviously talk about it, how to resolve the current dispute with understanding and dialogue “.
Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban supported the case of Poland, stating that “the fact is very clear: the primacy of EU law is not in the treaty at all, so the EU has primacy where it has competences … European institutions circumvent the rights of the national parliament and the government “.
The EU has taken legal action against Hungary and Poland on rule of law issues, accusing them of challenging the EU’s values of judicial independence, media freedom and minority rights, in particular those of migrants and homosexuals.
The European Commission has yet to approve € 57 billion (£ 48 billion; $ 66 billion) of Covid-19 recovery funds allocated to Poland and may not do so until the dispute is resolved.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte took a tough stance on that pot of EU money on Thursday. “The independence of the Polish judiciary is the key issue that we need to discuss. It is very difficult to see how a large new fund of money can be made available to Poland when this is not resolved,” he said.
Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin said he was “extremely disappointed” at what happened in Poland, saying that the primacy of EU law is “critical”.
An annex to the Lisbon Treaty of the EU clarifies that EU law takes precedence over national laws and that judgments of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) have enshrined this principle.
Annex 17, the declaration on primacy, he admits that the principle is not actually contained in the Treaty itself, but affirms that “the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice shows that the primacy of Community law is a cardinal principle of Community law.
“According to the Court, this principle is inherent in the specificity of the European Community”.
- European Court of Justice
- Angela Merkel
- European Union
The Polish Prime Minister accuses the EU of blackmail in a judicial dispute
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