New EU case against Poland

Status: 12/22/2021 1:03 p.m.

In the dispute over whether national law takes precedence over EU law in Poland, the Commission is tightening its approach: It has initiated new infringement proceedings against the government in Warsaw.

The EU Commission is taking legal action against the country because of controversial judgments by the Polish Constitutional Court on the status of EU law. The Brussels authority initiated what is known as an infringement procedure. According to its latest judgments, the Polish constitutional court “no longer meets the requirements of an independent and impartial court”, as provided for in the European treaties, the commission said. Poland now has two months to reply. If this is not satisfactory, the country faces a heavy fine in the worst case.

The commission and countries such as Germany and France have been accusing the national-conservative Polish government for years of undermining the separation of powers and installing judges loyal to the government up to and including the constitutional court. As the strongest leverage to date, the EU Commission is therefore holding back the release of a total of 36 billion euros from the European Corona aid fund for Poland. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had accused the EU of “blackmail”.

Poland already sentenced to fines

The dispute over compliance with the rule of law principles that are binding for EU countries escalated further when the Polish Constitutional Court ruled in early October that EU law does not automatically take precedence over national law. This calls into question a cornerstone of the European legal community.

The Polish court had already ruled in July that the application of interim ECJ injunctions relating to the country’s judicial system was incompatible with Poland’s constitution. The EU Commission, on the other hand, repeatedly emphasizes: EU law takes precedence over national law.

At the end of October, the European Parliament sued the Commission for inaction before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) because it had not exhausted all legal remedies against Poland. The Commission also sued Poland before the ECJ. The latter then ordered a daily fine of one million euros against Poland. The Luxembourg judges justified this with the “serious and irreparable damage” that threatens Europe and its fundamental values. In the specific case, it was about the disciplinary chamber at the highest Polish court, with whose help the government, according to Brussels estimates, can reprimand and suspend judges that are unpopular.

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