Ursula von der Leyen 'concerned' over Polish court ruling
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The EU has started long threatened legal action against Poland in a fight over the primacy of EU law, throwing the Eastern European country’s future in the bloc into doubt. In October, Polish judges ruled that Poland’s laws take precedence over EU laws, breaking a key rule of membership and sending both parties on a collision course.
Poland’s constitutional tribunal ruled in July that measures imposed by the European Court of Justice were unconstitutional, with warnings of a legal “Polexit”.
The European Commission has now launched the first of numerous legal cases brought against Poland to force the ruling Law and Justice Party to reverse its judiciary reforms in light of the ruling.
The Commission said in a statement: “The Commission considers that these rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal are in breach of the general principles of autonomy, primacy, effectiveness and uniform application of Union law and the binding effect of rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union.”
The EU has also raised concerns about the legitimacy of the court ruling, claiming the judiciary is filled with pro Law and Order party allies.
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But Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Prime Minister, said he “completely” disagreed with the Commission over the court’s impartiality and accused Brussels of trampling on national sovereignty.
He said on Wednesday: “Would we like the EU to make decisions on family law, inheritance law or other laws that are the domain of member states?
“I think not. The vast majority of EU citizens will answer no.”
Mr Morawiecki said at a press conference this week: “Not only does it meet all the requirements of independence, but it is also the Constitutional Tribunal that really cares for the Constitution, making it truly the highest law of the Republic of Poland.”
Deputy justice minister Sebastian Kaleta tweeted: “The EC is initiating proceedings and wants to subordinate the constitutional tribunal in Poland to EU law.
“This is an attack on the Polish constitution and our sovereignty.”
The European Commission had previously warned it would use “all its powers” to protect the principle that EU law supersedes national law.
Poland is currently being hit by a record €1 million daily fine from the EU for failing to comply with a court order to suspend the country’s controversial disciplinary mechanism for judges.
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The fine is the highest daily penalty the Court of Justice of the European Union has put on an EU member state in its history.
Poland is also currently missing out on a huge chunk of coronavirus recovery funds.
The commission has refused to pay out billions in coronavirus recovery funds to Poland because of the row over the rule of law.
But Poland’s Government still won’t give in, and the fight isn’t over yet between the two.
What will happen next?
Warsaw will have multiple chances to back down, a part of the deliberately designed slow process to prevent countries from having to meet with EU judges.
Poland’s government now has two months to respond to the Commission’s “letter of formal notice”.
The case could go to the European Court of Justice, leading to further action against Poland.
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