Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday strongly reacted to the EU Commission president’ criticism of Poland's rule of law, saying that the threatening language was uncalled for and that the country cannot be bullied by EU politicians.
Morawiecki spoke during the European Parliament's Plenary Session on "The Crisis of the Rule of Law in Poland and the Rule of EU Law."
A new issue of contention has emerged within the union with the ruling of Poland's Constitutional Court on Oct. 7, which said the country's national laws take precedence over some EU legislation.
The prime minister reacted to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen decrying the Polish Constitutional Court’s decision to count Article 7 of the EU agreement, which provides for financial punishment and suspension of the member state's rights by not using EU funds among the EU's options.
"I reject the threatening language. I will not allow the EU politicians to blackmail Poland. Blackmail should not be a method in policies aimed at a member state," he stated.
Responding to criticism of the rule of law for Poland, Morawiecki stressed that the EU is the most successful international union in history, but it is not "a state” and the states within the EU have sovereign rights.
"I see that the recent decision of the Constitutional Court of Poland has become an object of misunderstanding," Morawiecki said, noting that EU law is superior to national law "in some areas."
"The supreme law of Poland is the constitution. Our Constitution comes on top of all kinds of laws and the principle is protected by the Polish government.
The Constitutional Court of Poland has never ruled that the terms of the EU agreements are irreconcilable with Polish law. On the contrary, Poland complies with EU agreements,” he stressed.
"Lies such as Poland leaving the EU, and Polexit should not be spread," Morawiecki said, arguing that comparable decisions have been made in other EU countries such as Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, and Spain.
"We never agree to receive instructions from member states or to have something dictated to. There are similarities and differences between us. If we are going to cooperate, we need to accept that there are such differences.
The EU will not collapse just because our legal systems are different. We've been going on like this for decades. Perhaps in the future we will harmonize our legal systems, but for this to happen, sovereign decisions of sovereign states are necessary," he continued.
He noted that his country fought for the European freedom, and they protected Paris and Berlin from Soviet attacks in 1920. They fought against Nazi Germany in 1939, and that in 1981 the anti-totalitarian communist movement in Poland was the only hope, he added.
Expressing that Poland "did not come empty-handed" when joining the EU, Morawiecki noted that Poland, along with Lithuania and Latvia, protects the EU’s eastern borders, that his country brought economic gains to the EU, and the majority of Poles supported EU membership.
- EU's options against Poland
Speaking before Morawiecki, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they have been worried about the rule of law in Poland for some time, and that the Constitutional Court's recent ruling has made matters worse.
Noting that the EU Commission is currently considering the decision of Poland’s Constitutional Court of Poland, von der Leyen said: "This decision has caused the foundations of the EU to be questioned. This decision is a direct test of the unity of the legal order of the EU."
She said it was the first time a member state court had ruled that EU treaties were incompatible with the national constitution, adding that the EU Commission has several options as a result of its assessment.
Von der Leyen outlined these options are to start the EU's legal process against Poland, not to allow it to utilize the funds, and to start the process under Article 7 of the EU agreements, which allows for the suspension of a member state's rights.
"We will not allow our common values to be compromised," she stated and added, "I am deeply saddened to find ourselves in such a situation. I have always advocated and will defend dialogue. This is a situation that needs to be resolved and can be resolved. We want a strong Poland in a united Europe."
- Warsaw-Brussels tension
A new tension has arisen with the decision of Poland’s Constitutional Court on Oct. 7, after the rule of law discussions that have been ongoing for some time between Warsaw and Brussels.
The court announced its decision that the country's national laws precede some EU laws.
"The efforts of the European Court of Justice to intervene in the Polish justice system violate the principle of the rule of law, the principle of the supremacy of the Polish constitution, as well as the principle of the protection of sovereignty in the process of European integration," the court’s decision read.
Poland's practices on issues such as the rule of law, freedom of the press, and judicial independence have been criticized within the EU in recent years.
According to the EU Commission's "Rule of Law 2021" study, Poland's judiciary's independence is under assault, which is a cause for concern.
The European Court of Justice also criticizes the disciplinary committee set up against judges in the Polish Supreme Court and the method of their appointment.
* Writing by Merve Berker