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UPDATE: Polish justice minister hits back at Brussels amid rule-of-law row

23.12.2021 07:30
The Polish justice minister has accused Brussels of seeking to "determine the contents of the Polish constitution” after the European Commission launched legal proceedings against Warsaw for questioning the primacy of European Union law.
Polands Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro (pictured) has criticised the European Commission for launching legal action against Warsaw over rulings by the countrys constitutional court.
Poland's Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro (pictured) has criticised the European Commission for launching legal action against Warsaw over rulings by the country's constitutional court.PAP/Paweł Supernak

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, on Wednesday announced it was starting an infringement procedure against Poland over rulings by the country's constitutional court in July and October that challenged the primacy of EU law over national law.

The move marked the latest step in a prolonged row between Brussels and Warsaw over judicial independence and the rule of law.

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro told a news conference on Wednesday afternoon that the EU executive's decision was "designed to call into question the primacy of the Polish constitution.” 

He said the new legal case against Warsaw showed that "the Eurocrats" were seeking to create a situation in which “Polish law, the Polish constitution and the contents of constitutional norms" would "not be determined by the Polish people."

“They are to be decided by Brussels, and the Polish people are to be ruled by treaties and their interpretation by EU agencies,” he added, as quoted by the state PAP news agency.

“Put simply, the bureaucrats from Brussels did not like the verdict of Poland’s independent Constitutional Tribunal,” Ziobro told the media.

He also argued that the step could help transform the EU into a “federal state” in which member states would be deprived of some of their sovereignty.

“The logic behind the European Commission's position is obvious: It is about incapacitating Poland and Polish democracy,” Ziobro said.

'Attack on Polish constitution,' sovereignty

His deputy Sebastian Kaleta said earlier in the day that the European Commission's decision to launch an infringement procedure against Poland over its constitutional court was "an attack on the Polish constitution" and the country's sovereignty.

Polish Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta. Polish Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta. Photo: PAP/Andrzej Lange

The EU Commission said on Wednesday it had "serious doubts on the independence and impartiality" of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal.

The Warsaw-based Constitutional Tribunal ruled in October that some articles of the European Union treaties were against the country's constitution.

Amid a long-standing dispute over whether national law takes precedence over EU law, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal in July ruled that interim measures imposed by the EU’s top court on Poland's justice system were against the national constitution.

The Warsaw headquarters of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal. The Warsaw headquarters of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

"The Commission considers that these rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal are in breach of the general principles of autonomy, primacy, effectiveness and uniform application of Union law and the binding effect of rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union," the EU Commission said in a statement.

'Lack of understanding': PM

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he "deeply" disagreed with "the opinion of the European Commission concerning the Polish Constitutional Tribunal" and rejected accusations it had been politicised.

He added that the European Commission’s move showed "a lack of understanding of the distinction between EU and national competences," the PAP news agency reported.

He told reporters the court "not only fulfils all independence criteria, but it is a Constitutional Tribunal that stands guard of the constitution and ensures that it remains the highest law of the Republic of Poland."

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Photo: PAP/Hanna Bardo


Source: PAP

Click on the audio player above for a report by Radio Poland's Michał Owczarek.