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Poland and EU on a crash course

October 29th, 2021

Left-wing and liberal commentators interpret the latest ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court on a verdict by the European Court of Justice (CJEU) as a declaration of the primacy of Polish over EU law. They deem this an existential threat to the unity of the EU. A liberal legal expert describes the issue as juridically not fully unequivocal.

Poland’s Constitutional Court ruled that EU regulations, if interpreted as allowing or compelling national authorities to disregard their own constitution, are incompatible with Poland’s basic law. What was at stake was a verdict by the European Court of Justice which termed the establishment of a Disciplinary Council to oversee potential breaches of law by Polish judges illegal. As the Polish government rejected that interpretation, the European Court imposed a daily 1 million Euro fine on Poland.

24.hu’s Zsolt Kerner writes that the Polish Constitutional Court was mistaken when it ruled that the Polish Constitution has primacy over EU law in questions not explicitly regulated by EU treaties. The left-wing commentator deems it inevitable that the EU will respond harshly, to make sure that other countries do not follow suite. On the other hand, the EU is unlikely to punish Poland, as Hungary has already announced its intention to veto any such decisions. Kerner goes on to note that the Hungarian government has also been a staunch critic of the EU’s ‘sneaking expansion of power’ through the EU court, but PM Orbán has never gone as far as the Polish Constitutional Court, and always left a door open to make a deal. The left-wing commentator predicts that as usual, the EU will  prefer procrastination over resolving hard cases in which there is no easy compromise.

Telex’s Ádám Kolozsi interprets the Polish court decision as a threat to the unity of the EU. The liberal pundit recalls that the European Parliament has already responded by approving a resolution that calls the Polish top court illegitimate. Kolozsi also believes that the ruling by the Polish Constitutional Court has made it more difficult to broker a deal between the EU and Poland.

On Privátbankár, law professor Péter Hack, a former leading liberal politician, describesv the issue of whether Poland has infringed EU law and thus the Lisbon treaty, as extremely controversial. The Treaty, he writes, never mentions the primacy of EU law over national legislation. That principle stems from the practice of the European Court of Justice and has not been adhered to by member states automatically. Poland is not the only country which believes that national law prevails in areas where member states have not transferred their sovereignty to the EU. What is more, not only Poland, but also France, Germany and Hungary believe that the ‘constitutional identities’ of member countries are inviolable.

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