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Poland should not stay in the EU “at any price”, the country’s justice minister has said, amid a legal stand-off between Warsaw and Brussels that he called attempted “blackmail” by the bloc.
The European Commission has given Poland until August 16 to comply with a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against a key part of Poland’s overhaul of its judicial system. Brussels has threatened to impose fines if Warsaw does not comply.
Zbigniew Ziobro insisted on Friday that Poland should not back down, accusing the ECJ of having a “colonial mentality”. He argued that if Warsaw made concessions in the battle over its judicial changes, it would eventually be forced into concessions in other areas such as gay rights.
“I am completely against giving in to the illegal blackmail by the EU which is being carried out via the ECJ,” he told the newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
“If we agree today to the illegal diktats of the ECJ in matters in which it does not have the right to interfere, then tomorrow the ECJ will issue a verdict obliging Poland for example to introduce gay marriage and the adoption of children by such couples.”
Asked whether Poland should remain in the EU at any price, he added. “At any price we should strive to defend our autonomy and our position within the EU. Otherwise Poles will lose from EU membership. So [we should] be in, but not at any price.”
Polls suggest that a huge majority of Poles want to remain in the EU, which has provided billions of euros in funding to the Polish economy, and given millions of Poles the opportunity to live and work abroad.
However, the five-year battle over Poland’s judicial changes — which the EU says undermine the rule of law — has strained relations between Brussels and Poland’s conservative-nationalist coalition government. It has also sparked questions about Poland’s long-term position in the bloc.
The latest flare-up in tensions follows the July 15 ruling by the ECJ that Poland’s new disciplinary chamber for judges — which can punish judges for the content of their rulings — is in breach of EU law.
In response, the head of Poland’s supreme court on Thursday partially suspended the chamber. Moderate figures in the government, such as prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, have previously endorsed the prospect of changes.
“Today we are in a situation where maybe the activities of the disciplinary chamber should be reviewed,” he said last month. “Because that chamber has certainly not fulfilled all our expectations, including mine.”
However, Ziobro, who heads United Poland, one of two smaller coalition partners to Morawiecki’s Law and Justice, said that he did not share Morawiecki’s approach to dealing with the EU.
“The prime minister is a proponent of seeking compromises, and we consider that the aggression of the EU should be met with a tough response,” he said.