Angela Merkel, who reflected earlier this week on her deep wound over Brexit, called on European Union countries to compromise on their competing visions of integration, during what was presented in Brussels as a farewell summit for the German Chancellor.
Merkel’s attempt at her 107th and possibly final EU summit to iron out a dispute over Poland’s rejection of European Court of Justice rulings, in an olive branch in Warsaw, is This came as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte demanded firm action, and Hungarian Viktor Orbán rallied in defense of the Polish government.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has threatened Poland with sanctions, including blocking the dispersal of € 36 billion (£ 30 billion) in grants and loans for the recovery in the event of pandemic, for insisting that key elements of EU law are incompatible with the Polish constitution. .
Warsaw’s demand, credited in the eyes of its government by a decision of the country’s Constitutional Court, follows a series of decisions by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) demanding the repeal of measures in Poland that have allegedly undermined independence of the judiciary.
In a heated speech in the European Parliament this week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused the European institutions of going too far and of making Poland a “province”.
The Polish position has been described by the French Minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, as a “de facto” exit from the EU.
Merkel said she supported the committee in warning Morawiecki about the need to respect the ECJ. But in a possible sign of the scars left by Brexit, the Chancellor also warned of an ‘underlying issue’ that needed to be addressed.
“It’s the question of how individual members view the EU,” Merkel said. “Is it an ever closer union or is it more of a nation state?” And this is certainly not only a problem between Poland and the EU, but also in other Member States. “
She added: “We have to find ways and possibilities to meet again on this point, because a cascade of litigation before the European Court of Justice is not a solution. “
While the Dutch government is far from a champion of European federalism, Rutte has openly declared the need for member states to respect common EU values and laws if they are to reap the benefits of the union.
He said he expected Poland to lose funding if it continued to act in defiance of EU law.
“We have to be tough,” Rutte said. “The independence of the Polish judiciary is the key issue that we must discuss. It is very difficult to see how a new big fund of money could be made available to Poland when this is not settled. “
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said: “If you want to be part of a club and enjoy the benefits of a club, you have to follow the rules. A red line has been crossed and we cannot accept it.
In a bid to put pressure on EU leaders as they met, MEPs voted on Thursday in favor of a resolution calling on the committee and the 26 other member states to trigger a mechanism for the EU to withhold funds from Poland, with 502 deputies out of 671. support the measure.
On the other side of the argument, Orbán, whose government has also faced threats to its EU funding for failing to respect the rule of law, has offered Poland its full support.
He said: “Poland is the best country in Europe. There is no need to have a sanction, it is ridiculous. What is happening here is that the European institutions are circumventing the rights of the national parliament and government and amending the treaty without having any legitimate authority to do so. Poland is right… the real dividing line is common sense and nonsense.
Morawiecki, after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron shortly before the summit, reiterated his insistence that Poland not be “blackmailed”, but he seems to have softened his stance.
“We are ready for dialogue,” he said. “We will of course talk about how to resolve the current differences in the agreement and in the dialogue. “
Merkel’s summit appearance, marked by a special ‘family photo’ of the 27 heads of state and government, could be her last if discussions on the composition of the next German government bear fruit before the next meeting scheduled for December 16.