Legal disputes between Poland and the European Union have been ongoing for the past six years, gradually increasing in severity. These disputes experienced a dramatic escalation on the 7th of October, 2021, after a ruling was passed by Poland’s constitutional tribunal. This ruling argued that when it comes to certain EU laws, the Polish constitution is given priority over that of the EU. It stated the following:
“The effort by the Court of Justice of the European Union to interfere in the Polish justice system violates the principle of rule of law, the principle of the primacy of the Polich constitution as well as the principle of retaining sovereignty in the process of European integration”.
On the other end, the European Commission reacted strongly to the Polish ruling as it raises “serious concerns”. In a statement the Commission said that it “will not hesitate to make use of its powers under the EU Treaties to safeguard the uniform application and integrity of Union law” because rulings passed by the European Court of Justice are binding on all Member States’ authorities, including national courts.
Back in March 2021, the Polich Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, initiated the argument that Brussels does not have the right to interfere with EU Member States’ judicial systems and that reforms taken by the government were needed to remove communist influences. The EU law infringement in question last Thursday was based on the new system introduced in 2018 by the Polish government to appoint judges in Poland.
One of the main principles of European integration is that EU laws must be given priority over national legislations of Member States. The challenge imposed by Polish politicians on this principle could potentially jeopardise Poland’s future in the EU. Even though, the European Commission reacted with serious concern regarding Poland’s ruling last Thursday, these actions were not taken by surprise because Poland and the EU clashed on several occasions with regards to EU laws.
The authorities of the European Union are now waiting to see what actions the Polish government will take next, in order to avoid unnecessarily or excessively raising the temperature with Warsaw, therefore, trying to mitigate the situation as much as possible.
This was the first situation where a leader of an EU Member State questioned the EU Treaties in constitutional court to this extent, meaning that the EU is threading new grounds, requiring caution, precision and decisiveness.