EU: Expert discusses ‘long term challenge’ of rule of law
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Next week will see both sides reach a pivotal moment in their relationship when Poland’s constitutional court or tribunal will rule on whether the nation must abide by EU judicial requirements. The battle between Warsaw and Brussels has challenged the EU’s core model in a way no other member state has.
The wrestling between Poland’s ruling coalition and EU chiefs has given rise to suggestions that the eastern European nation may follow the UK out of the bloc, with “Polexit”.
Political analyst Piotr Buras, director of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank, said there is a lot at stake in the Polish legal challenge.
He described it as more “fundamental” and “dangerous” than previous struggles between Brussels and individual member.
He said the court in Poland is questioning the abilities of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) when it comes to enforcing treaties and standards.
He told The Times: “This amounts to a declaration of war against the EU’s new system of rule of law protection.”
And Laurent Pech, a professor of European law and expert on the rule of law, warned the battle may lead to Polexit.
He said if the Polish court next week slapped down the ECJ rulings it would pave the way for a “direct conflict”.
And he warned the bloc will not be willing to make changes to the treaties to appease Poland.
Prof Pech of Middlesex University told The Times: “The Polish authorities will have two options — pay, or leave the EU.
“We are getting to the point where no more dialogue is an option, where there is going to be an open conflict.”
The rule of law crisis is centred on Poland’s passing of a 2020 law beefing up the country’s rules on penalising judges.
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The Commission claims that the law undermines “the judicial independence of Polish judges” and is “incompatible with the primacy of EU law”.
The law can be used to reprimand judges who are accused of complicating the functioning of the justice system.
And those who question how their fellow judges were appointed also risk running foul of the law.
In March the Commission referred Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), the bloc’s top court.
In a statement, the Commission said it “considers that the Polish law on the judiciary undermines the independence of Polish judges and is incompatible with the primacy of EU law.”
It continued: “Moreover, the new law prevents Polish courts from directly applying certain provisions of EU law protecting judicial independence, and from putting references for preliminary rulings on such questions to the Court of Justice.”
Yesterday the Commission was reported to have issued yet another rebuke to Poland in a letter, Politico reported.
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders wrote to the Polish government on Wednesday evening to ask them to withdraw the motion which is pending before the country’s court.
He wrote that the motion “appears to contest fundamental principles of EU law, in particular the principle that EU law has primacy over national law” and “contests the authority of the Court of Justice when interpreting the EU Treaties.”
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