Wed, 08 Dec 2021

Roundup: "Polexit" stokes debate in Poland

Xinhua
12 Oct 2021, 04:44 GMT+10

WARSAW, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- A recent ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal has highlighted the sharp political divide within the country and with the European Union (EU) institutions.

The tribunal, which is broadly seen as controlled by loyalists of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, ruled on Thursday that certain EU laws clash with Poland's Constitution, and that Polish laws have supremacy over those of the EU.

The verdict was the result of a suit brought by the Polish Prime Minister's Office after the European Court of Justice ruled in July that the functioning of a judges' disciplinary chamber is not compatible with EU law and that the body must be immediately suspended.

Poland's government responded by filing a claim with the tribunal to determine that Polish laws have primacy over EU laws, with the court ruling in the government's favor.

However, the EU's executive body, the European Commission, has stated time and again that the primacy of EU laws over national laws is one of the Union's founding principles.

"The Commission will not hesitate to make use of its powers under the Treaties to safeguard the uniform application and integrity of Union law," the Commission wrote in a statement following the verdict.

The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, said Poland's verdict could not remain without consequences, calling on the European Commission to "take the necessary action."

The European People's Party, the center-right bloc in the European Parliament to which the PiS belongs, came out strongly against the court's ruling. Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Jeroen Lenaers, spokesperson for the group, said that "the Polish government has lost its credibility. This is an attack on the EU as a whole."

On Sunday, Poles across the country took to the streets in demonstrations aimed against the government and the ruling, which they consider politically motivated. The authorities in Warsaw said that the demonstration in the capital alone attracted 80,000 to 100,000 protesters after a call by Donald Tusk, a former prime minister and leader of the opposition Civic Platform, a moderate conservative party.

In a speech, Tusk warned that a "pseudo court" has ruled that Poland should be outside the EU legal order and therefore, would result in a so-called Polexit, a situation where Poland would leave the EU, either on its own or by being forced out by the other member states.

Since becoming a member in 2004, Poland has been considered one of the bloc's primary economic success stories. Polls show that between 70 percent and 90 percent of Poles favor EU membership.

Michael and Maja, a couple living in Warsaw, told Xinhua that Poland had been in the EU for 17 years and that they could not imagine living without being EU citizens.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, however, echoed the party line that Polexit is 'fake news,' and said that his government was not seeking an exit from the European Union. "It is a damaging myth that the opposition uses to mask their lack of ideas with regard to Poland's position within Europe," he wrote on Facebook.

Poland's exit from the EU would be complicated, especially if the Polish government is unwilling to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the mechanism used by the United Kingdom to enact Brexit. While the country could be seen as in breach of the treaties, there is no formal legal mechanism that would allow the EU to expel member states.

However, the European Commission can fine countries hefty sums, which can be withheld from the EU benefits the countries receive. Poland is one of the largest net beneficiaries within the EU.

According to the EU budget, Poland receives over 139 billion euros (160.7 billion U.S. dollars) in subsidies and 34 billion euros in repayable aid in the period between 2021 and 2027.

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