Poland challenges supremacy of EU law in snub to Brussels

Polish court rules some articles of European Unions treaties unconstitutional, widening rift with Brussels.

The row has stoked new fears that Poland might be on the path to leaving the European Union [File: Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images]

Poland’s top court has challenged the supremacy of European Union law in a landmark ruling, widening the diplomatic rift between Warsaw and Brussels.

Defying a key tenet of European integration, the Constitutional Tribunal on Thursday declared some articles in EU treaties “incompatible” with its national legislation and unconstitutional.

The court also warned EU institutions not to “act beyond the scope of their competencies” by interfering with Poland’s judiciary, which has been a major bone of contention with Brussels.

The ruling prompted a stern warning from Brussels, with EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders saying that “all tools” would be used to preserve EU law in Poland and that the principle of supremacy of EU law was “at the heart of the union”.

The leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, welcomed the verdict.

“In Poland, the highest legal act is the Constitution and all European regulations that are in force in Poland … must comply with the Constitution,” he told reporters.

“This also applies to the judiciary and the European Union has nothing to say here.”

Outside the court, a group of about 30 protesters waved EU flags and shouted “Shame!”, “Traitors!” and “Welcome to Belarus!”.

Anna Labus, a pensioner, was in tears. “It’s a scandal … They’re taking us out of the European Union!” she told the AFP news agency

The Polish government, which brought the case, welcomed the ruling, with spokesman Piotr Muller saying that it confirmed “the primacy of constitutional law over other sources of law”.

It had accused the EU of “blackmail” following a warning by EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni that the court case could have repercussions on the disbursement of Poland’s pandemic recovery funds.

The EU is holding off on approving the 23 billion euros ($26bn) in EU grants and 34 billion euros ($39bn) in cheap loans to help the country past the economic blowback of COVID-19.

EU officials have said the money could be disbursed next month but with strict rule of law conditions attached.

The Polish government is embroiled in a series of politically charged disputes with the EU on issues ranging from the independence of courts and media freedoms to LGBTQ rights.

The row has raised further concerns that Poland might be on the path to leaving the EU, which could affect the stability of the bloc itself.

Brussels has accused the PiS government of undermining judicial independence during sweeping reforms the party said are aimed at making the courts more efficient.

PiS said it has no plans for a “Polexit”. It also denied having any influence over court decisions.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies