Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has asked a Polish court to rule on whether a mechanism linking European Union funds to rule of law is compatible with the country’s constitution.
Thursday’s move marks the latest development in a long-running feud between Warsaw and Brussels over Poland’s perceived backsliding on EU democratic norms.
Brussels is already withholding approval of coronavirus recovery funds for Poland over the row.
“The European conditionality mechanism is intrinsically very dangerous. It allows the European Commission, for arbitrary political unchecked reasons, to use blackmail and even extreme economic violence,” Ziobro told reporters.
“That’s why I decided to refer the matter to Poland’s Constitutional Court,” said Ziobro, who is also the EU member’s prosecutor general.
Earlier this year, Poland and its ally Hungary filed complaints with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over the mechanism. A ruling is expected in early 2022.
Poland’s governing nationalists have already referred several other EU matters to the Constitutional Court this year.
In July, the court ruled that any interim measures from the ECJ against Poland’s judicial reforms were not in line with the constitution, while in October it challenged the primacy of EU law over Polish law.
EU legal action
On Wednesday, the EU said it was launching legal action against Poland for ignoring EU law.
The EU economy commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, said the Polish Constitutional Court “no longer meets the requirements of an independent and impartial tribunal established by law, as required” by a fundamental EU treaty.
Earlier this year, the EU’s top court ordered Warsaw to pay 1 million euros (about $1.1m) a day for not suspending a controversial “disciplinary chamber” at the heart of the bitter feud between Warsaw and Brussels.
The court also ordered Poland to pay Brussels a daily fine of 500,000 euros ($565,000) for failing to shut a massive coal mine that angered the neighbouring Czech Republic.
Warsaw has refused to pay.
Warsaw and Brussels have been at loggerheads for years over judicial reforms pushed through by the Law and Justice (PiS) government.
Brussels believes the reforms hamper democratic freedom but Poland says they are needed to root out corruption among judges.