The European Union risks collapse if it continues to ‘blackmail’ Poland, the country’s Prime Minister has warned amid an escalating battle over the rule of law between Warsaw and Brussels.
In a letter to EU leaders, Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused the bloc of ‘starving’ and ‘punishing’ his country by withholding billions of euros in Covid recovery money following a row over sovereignty.
Earlier this month, Poland’s Constitutional Court ruled that EU treaties were incompatible with the Polish constitution, putting Warsaw and Brussels on a full collision course.
On the eve of a speech to the European Parliament Morawiecki insisted Poland would remain a ‘loyal member’ of the EU but warned that the bloc risked becoming ‘deprived of democratic control’ if they did not protect the sovereignty of member states.
The European Union risks collapse if it continues to ‘blackmail’ Poland, the country’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has warned amid an escalating battle over the rule of law between Warsaw and Brussels
Poland’s populist right-wing government has been at odds with the EU for years over controversial judicial reforms.
The ruling by Poland’s supreme court earlier this month fuelled talk of a potential ‘Polexit’, but Morawiecki says his government has no intention of following Britain’s example and taking Poland out of the EU.
‘I would like to reassure you that Poland remains a loyal member of the European Union,’ he wrote in the letter.
However, Morawiecki warned against of a ‘dangerous phenomenon that threatens the future of our Union’, adding that ‘we ought to be anxious’.
‘I mean the gradual transformation of the Union into an entity that would cease to be an alliance of free, equal and sovereign states – and become one, centrally managed organism, governed by institutions deprived of democratic control.’
‘If we do not stop this phenomenon, all will feel its negative effects. Today it may concern just one country – tomorrow, under a different pretext, another,’ he said.
But he added that ‘without imposing one’s will on others, we can find a solution that will strengthen our European Union’.
Earlier this month, Poland’s Constitutional Court (pictured) ruled that EU treaties were incompatible with the Polish constitution, putting Warsaw and Brussels on a full collision course
The letter comes in the wake of the ruling from Poland’s Constitutional Court challenging the primacy of EU law.
The ruling was widely criticised by many EU members such as France and Germany but Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban and far-right politicians across Europe defended it.
Analysts said it could be a first step towards Poland one day leaving the EU – a process that would require the government to issue a formal notification of its desire to quit.
The court stated that parts of the EU treaties were ‘incompatible’ with Poland’s constitution and warned the EU’s Court of Justice against interfering with the Polish judicial reforms wanted by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
The EU says they undermine judicial independence and could roll back democratic reforms, while the Polish government says they are necessary to root out corruption in the judiciary.
In Morawiecki’s letter, he said that the primacy of EU law was ‘not unlimited’ and that ‘no sovereign state’ could say otherwise.
‘Today we are dealing with a very dangerous phenomenon whereby various European Union institutions usurp powers they do not have under the treaties and impose their will on member states,’ he said.
‘This is particularly evident today as financial tools are being used for such a purpose,’ he added – a reference to new powers for the European Commission to withhold EU payouts if bloc norms on corruption and rule of law are seen as being threatened.
In a move sure to further raise tensions, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro urged his government on Monday to take legal action against Germany over what he said was a politicised system of choosing judges in the bloc’s largest nation.
Ziobro, architect of Poland’s judicial overhaul and leader of an arch-conservative junior partner in Morawiecki’s government, has often complained of what he sees as the EU’s unequal treatment of Poland.
‘Since the EU is based on the equality of all states and citizens, it is necessary to check the situation in Germany, where the selection of judges to the counterpart of the Supreme Court is entirely political,’ Ziobro told a news conference.
Ziobro said that while top court judges in Germany are selected by politicians, in Poland judges themselves are more responsible for the selection process. However, critics say that the body that appoints judges in Poland has come under political influence.
The German government’s press office and a Polish government spokesman did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Laurent Pech, professor of European law at Middlesex University, London, said references to the situation in Germany were ‘irrelevant’.
‘The references to the situation in Germany or elsewhere should be seen for what they are: to distract Polish citizens from the repeated violations of the Polish Constitution in order to create a de facto autocratic one-party system where judges and prosecutors can be punished at will.’
Poland’s government says its judicial reforms are necessary to remove the vestiges of communist rule in the country.