As The Rift Widens: Explaining The Poland-European Union Crisis

A controversial ruling has increased the tensions between Poland and the European Union, with some worrying about Polexit.

What Happened?

The European Commission has laid out its options for a response to a Polish court ruling that questioned the supremacy of the European Union law. The options range from legal action to withholding funds.

European Union’s executive president, Ursula von der Leyen said, as mentioned by Reuters, “This ruling calls into question the foundations of the European Union. It is a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order.” Ursula added, “The Polish Constitutional Court that today has cast doubts on the validity of our Treaty is the same court that under Article 7 we consider not to be independent and legitimate.”

The Ruling

The court ruling, which has challenged the supremacy of EU law, has plunged the bloc into an existential crisis. But what was the ruling about? Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal said that four crucial provisions of the main EU treaty clash with — and should not prevail over — the Polish Constitution:

· Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union, where EU countries agree to set up the Union, which they call a “a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.”

· Article 2 contains the Union’s main values of “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities” in a society in which “pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

· Article 4.3 establishes a principle of “sincere cooperation” for EU countries and the Union to “assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from the Treaties.”

· Article 19 introduces the Court of Justice of the European Union, saying it “shall ensure that in the interpretation and application of the Treaties the law is observed.”

The Polish judges said that Articles 1 and 4 allowed the Union to act “beyond the limits of competences transferred by the Republic of Poland in the treaties.” The tribunal also ruled that, Articles 19 and 2, European courts illegally override the Polish constitution, including by checking the legality of the appointment of judges.

Rising Problems

The problems between the bloc and Poland didn’t start yesterday. Populist governments in Poland and Hungary have found themselves increasingly at odds with the European Commission about issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to judicial independence.

This row has increased further worries that Poland might be on the path to leaving the EU, which could affect the stability of the bloc itself. It is important to note here that Poland’s membership of the bloc since 2004 has helped drive some of the fastest economic growth in Europe.

Since Poland is an essential part of the bloc, the tribunal’s ruling has led to worries that Poland might exit from the EU. However, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Prime Minister of Poland, has repeatedly insisted that the country has no plans to leave the EU. He told the European Parliament, as mentioned by BBC, “We should not be spreading lies about Polish Polexit.”

In The End

For Poland, the ruling was simply a step towards “judicial independence.” However, EU is deeply concerned about the decision. But the thing that is at stake here is the distribution of Poland’s pandemic recovery funds. The EU is delaying the approval of 23 billion euros in EU grants and 34 billion euros in cheap loans to help the country recover from the pandemic’s economic impact. Poland’s ruling party is now accusing the bloc of using the funds as “blackmail.”

Despite Poland saying that it has no intention to leave the EU, many point out how this could be the first step towards Polexit. Several critics have said that this ruling could jeopardise the country’s membership in the long-term. However, the majority of Polish people don’t want to leave the bloc, according to the polls.

Now, there are several questions in our mind — Will Poland actually leave the bloc over clash of values? What kind of impact will the Polexit have on the EU? We have to wait and see what happens in the upcoming weeks.

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