Recently, relations between Poland and the EU have been tense due to dubious judicial reform, legislation banning abortions, and it has come to an ultimatum to deprive them of funding because of "LGBT-free zones." Recently, the decision of the Constitutional Court on the priority of the Polish constitution over the EU legislation added fuel to the fire.
The immediate result of such actions in the near future may be the cut-off of Poland from billions of EU funds and even Polexit.
Decision of the Constitutional Court of Poland
In 2017, Warsaw, initiated by the Law and Justice Party (PiS), implemented judicial reform. Then Brussels accused the government of establishing control over the courts.
In March 2021, the Supreme Administrative Court of Poland decided to be guided not by Polish law, but by the decision of the EU Court of Justice. Then Prime Minister Mateusz Jakub Morawiecki asked to explain to the Constitutional Court whether Polish courts can ignore Polish legislation if it contradicts EU law.
This is an important point - according to the treaty on the creation of the EU, the EU law takes precedence over the legislation of its members. Warsaw joined this treaty and agreed to it. But on October 7, the Constitutional Court declared that Polish law has priority over European law. Now Polish courts do not have to obey the decrees of the EU court.
Does the Polexit solution come close?
Brussels made it clear that they would insist on fulfilling the terms of the agreement. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stressed that the Commission "will use all its powers in accordance with the EU treaties" to protect the rule of law.
EC Vice President Vera Yurova warned that the EU "will begin to collapse" if it does not challenge the ruling of the Constitutional Court.
The first leverage is to freeze the allocation of tens of billions of euros from the Recovery and Resilience Fund (post-pandemic assistance). This is more than 23 billion euros in the form of EU grants and 32 billion in cheap loans.
The first tranche of 13% was supposed to arrive in early August, but in July the EU postponed the procedure. On September 1, European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Paolo Gentiloni said that the allocation of money from the EU fund is the subject of negotiations regarding the priority of EU law. Thanks to financial pressure, it was possible to resolve the issue of abolishing LGBT-free zones.
The fate of EU money for Poland is still unknown.
Another danger is Poland's exit from the EU. The Polish opposition said that the Constitutional Court's verdict could be the first step towards the country's exit from the European Union.
Deputy Ombudsman Maciej Taborowski said in an interview with Newsweek that if Polexit is treated as a process, then the Constitutional Court's decision should be seen as an attempt to remove the Polish legal system from the standards of the European judicial system.
"In other words, the decision of the Constitutional Court excludes Poland from the list of supranational ones, which means that without a radical change in position, the Polish state will not be able to participate in the integration process," Taborowski said.
Lack of confidence in the Polish legal system will mean that the mechanisms allowing Poles to assert their rights in the EU will be stopped in their relation.
Taborowski says that there are three ways out of the situation: to change the constitution (unlikely in the current political system), the EU changes legislation according to its key principle (also unlikely), or Poland's exit from the EU.
At the same time, the Polish authorities in all their statements emphasize that Poland's place is in the EU.
"Polexit is a fake. It is a harmful myth that the opposition uses to replace the lack of ideas about the proper positioning of Poland in Europe ... All obligations arising from EU legislation remain in force," said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Government spokesman Peter Müller said that there is no question of any Polexit, and accused the leader of the "Civic Platform" Donald Tusk that he "deceived people."
Rallies against leaving the EU
On Sunday, October 10, demonstrations were held in Poland under the slogan "We remain in the European Union." In Warsaw alone, about 100 thousand people gathered on the Castle Square. Demonstrations took place in 126 cities in Poland. It was one of the most massive demonstrations in the past six years.
People at the rally said they were furious at what PiS was doing and did not believe assurances that they would not withdraw Poland from the EU.
The leader of the Civic Platform, Donald Tusk, who organized the demonstration, managed to gather politicians from practically the entire opposition in one place.
"The pseudo-court, on the instructions of the president, in violation of the constitution, decided to withdraw us from the European Union. Using the lie that the Polish constitution contradicts EU laws. This is not true. The truth is obvious, but the whole of Poland must hear it - we are defending the constitution, we are defending the Republic of Poland from usurpers," said Tusk.
At the rally, the opposition called for the next elections to get rid of PiS and return to the European community.
According to Newsweek, 80% of Poles still support EU membership, but the percentage of those opposed to the EU has begun to rise.
PiS executives are in talks today and are working on a new strategy to neutralize the inevitable Polexit thesis. There is a belief in PiS that if the opposition manages to turn the next parliamentary elections into a decision between joining or leaving the EU, then the ruling party will not be able to win. The next parliamentary elections in Poland are due to take place in 2023.