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MEPs condemn 'attempt to undermine primacy of EU law' in Poland

21.10.2021 21:15
European lawmakers on Thursday voted to condemn what they said was an attempt to undermine the primacy of EU law by Poland's governing conservatives amid a bitter dispute over judicial changes and the rule of law in the eastern member state.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delivers a speech during a debate on the rule of law crisis in Poland and the primacy of EU law during a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Oct. 19, 2021.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delivers a speech during a debate on "the rule of law crisis in Poland and the primacy of EU law" during a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Oct. 19, 2021.Photo: EPA/RONALD WITTEK

In a resolution adopted with 502 votes for, 153 against, and 16 abstentions, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) called on the European Council and the bloc's executive to find mechanisms to "urgently protect the people of Poland and the Union," the EU legislature said on its website.

The resolution followed a heated plenary debate two days earlier during which Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France that his government would not give in to financial and political "blackmail" over its judicial reforms.

Tuesday's debate was held after a landmark judgement by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, which ruled earlier this month that parts of EU treaties were incompatible with the Polish constitution.

The ruling added to a long-running dispute between the Polish government and EU institutions. It appeared to question a key tenet of European integration and threatened to escalate tension between Warsaw and Brussels.

MEPs said on Thursday that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal lacked legal validity and independence, and was unqualified to interpret the country’s constitution, according to the europarl.europa.eu website.

They described the Polish top court's decision as "an attack on the European community of values and laws as a whole,” and said that the Constitutional Tribunal itself had been transformed “into a tool for legalising the illegal activities of the authorities.”

EU lawmakers commended "the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters in Poland, who have taken to the streets to protest the Tribunal’s decision, and their desire for a strong democratic Poland at the heart of the European project," according to the European Parliament's website.

MEPs said that, under Poland’s constitution, "the EU Treaties are directly applicable in its legal order, and have precedence in the event of a conflict with domestic law."

They accused the Polish prime minister of “further misusing the judiciary as a tool to achieve his political agenda” and said that Poland remained "voluntarily bound by the Treaties and the case law of the EU Court."

In their resolution. EU lawmakers demanded that no EU taxpayers’ money be given to governments that “flagrantly, purposefully and systematically” undermine European values, calling on the European Commission to refrain from approving Poland's national recovery plan, among other steps.

MEPs stressed that these measures were "not intended to punish the people of Poland, but to restore the rule of law in the light of its continued deterioration, and call on the Commission to find mechanisms that would allow for funding to reach its direct beneficiaries," according to europarl.europa.eu.

A judicial system 'deeply flawed': PM

Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in late 2015, has insisted that sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system tainted by the communist past.

The Polish prime minister said in 2017 that his country’s judicial system was “deeply flawed” and that his ruling conservatives were elected with a mandate to overhaul it.

Morawiecki has frequently argued that some of the legal changes made by his conservative government have met with criticism abroad because they are not understood in Western Europe, which was spared the experience of communism.


Source: PAPeuroparl.europa.eu

Click on the "Play" button above for an audio report by Radio Poland’s Michał Owczarek.