Poland’s Top Court Rules Its Constitution Trumps Some E.U. Laws

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The ruling challenges the supremacy of European law, which has been a cornerstone of the continent’s push for an “always close union” since it began more than 60 years ago.

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WARSAW — Poland’s Constitutional Court on Thursday set off a one-on-one confrontation with the European Union, saying the country’s constitution trumps some laws set by the bloc, a decision that holds the union’s 27 members together as the glue. threatens to disband.


The decisions, issued in Warsaw by the Constitutional Tribunal after months of delay in the closely watched case, effectively challenge the supremacy of European law, which has been “an ever closer union since its introduction more than 60 years ago”. ” is the cornerstone of the continent’s push for .

The decision could raise dangerous long-term questions about future EU membership of Poland, the most populous and economically important nation in a group of former communist states that joined the bloc after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Was.

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The case began in April when the Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, the deeply conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, filed a request that the Constitutional Court analyze “the conflict between the norms of European law and the national constitution”.

The 12-member tribunal that issued Thursday’s ruling is headed by Chief Justice Julia Przeebska, a close personal friend of law and justice leader Jarosaw Kaczynski, who has long sought to restrict Polish sovereignty and advance policies on LGBTQ rights. Let’s see it as Brussels’ efforts to increase. And other issues they say are contrary to Polish norms.

Ms Przylbska, reading out the ruling in court on Thursday, said some European laws were unconstitutional and could not be respected in Poland because it would prevent the country from functioning as a “sovereign and democratic state” and “undermine the Polish constitution”. Will stop” the supreme law of Poland. The European Union, she said, “acts outside the capacity assigned to it in the treaties.”

After years of feuding between Brussels and Warsaw, in July the European Court of Justice ordered Poland to abolish a new disciplinary system for judges, seen as a campaign by the right-wing government to reform and root out the judiciary. was described in. Communist-era influence.

In August the leader of Law and Justice indicated that Poland could at least partially comply with the order, but has since backtracked, leaving the government to press with its case before the Constitutional Court. , based on the argument that the Polish constitution, not the courts of the European Union, should be the final legal arbitrator.

The government has said it has no intention of leaving the union, which has funded billions of dollars and has overwhelming public support according to opinion polls.

“The Polish government wants to have its cake, and eat it too,” said Anna Wojcick, a researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences who specializes in the rule of law.

“They want to stay in the EU, because 90 percent of Poles support it, but at the same time they want to free themselves from European decisions related to the judiciary.” he said.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, has made it clear that it will not accept it, avoiding any statements that would put the future membership of Poland in doubt, which is still pending in Britain’s 2016 vote to leave. recovering from shock.

The disputed disciplinary system for judges, Ms Wojcick said, “touches on the fundamental issue of the right to effective judicial protection” and threatens the “European legal system”.

Brussels has asked a European court to impose fines of up to a maximum for refusing to abolish Poland’s disciplinary system. $1.2 million per day on Poland. In another sign of rising tension, the commission acknowledged last month that it was withholding $42 billion in payments to Poland from the bloc’s coronavirus recovery fund because of the country’s challenges to the supremacy of EU law.

Donald Tusk, a former prime minister who returned to Warsaw this year to rally against law and justice after serving in Brussels as president of the European Council, warned in July that his home country and Hungary There is a risk of further attempts to challenge the fundamental rules of the bloc. Europe on the road to disintegration. But he said there would be no imminent collapse and that the process would take years.

Asked by a judge on Thursday about the possibility that Poland might eventually have to leave the bloc, the government’s representative in court said it was not an issue because the case focused on narrow legal questions, not Poland’s membership. About this.

Andrew Higgins reported from Warsaw, and Monica Pronzuk from Brussels. Anatol Magadziarz contributed reporting from Warsaw.

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