BRUSSELS, October 21 (Reuters) – European Union leaders will face their Polish counterpart on Thursday over a court ruling calling into question the primacy of European laws in a sharp escalation of battles that risk precipitating a new crisis for the block.
The French President and the Dutch Prime Minister are particularly keen to prevent their governments’ cash contributions to the EU from benefiting socially conservative politicians who undermine the human rights enshrined in the laws of Western liberal democracies.
“EU states that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds,” said EU Parliament President David Sassoli, before the national leaders of the 27 member countries of the bloc do meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
“The European Union is a community founded on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. If these are threatened in a Member State, the EU must act to protect them.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is preparing to defend the October 7 decision of the Polish Constitutional Court declaring that elements of EU law were incompatible with the country’s constitution.
“This is a major problem and a challenge for the European project,” said a French official of the Polish decision.
Morawiecki has already been criticized by EU lawmakers this week and the Commission chief said the challenge to the unity of the European legal order would not go unanswered.
This, along with other policies introduced by his ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, are expected to cost Poland money.
With this decision, the PiS raised the stakes of the years of increasingly bitter quarrels with the EU over democratic principles from free courts and media to the rights of women, migrants and LGBT people.
A senior EU diplomat said such policies were “not tenable in the European Union”.
The Commission has so far banned Warsaw from tapping into 57 billion euros ($ 66 billion) in emergency funds to help its economy emerge from the COVID pandemic. Warsaw also risks losing other EU aid, as well as sanctions from the bloc’s highest court.
Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg are also among those determined to bring Warsaw in line and have increased criticism since the PiS came to power in 2015.
The immediate consequences for Poland – with some 38 million inhabitants, the largest ex-communist country in the EU – are financial.
But for the EU, the latest twist in the feud with Eurosceptic PiS also comes at a sensitive time as it grapples with the fallout from Brexit.
The bloc – minus Britain – took a big step forward in integration last year by agreeing to joint debt guarantees to raise € 750 billion for economic recovery from COVID, overcoming stiff resistance from ‘Rich states like the Netherlands.
While most EU states share a currency, greater fiscal coordination can only hold if the rich who give more than they get back from the bloc are sure their taxes don’t end up funding politicians flouting their pockets. fundamental liberal values.
Morawiecki rejected the idea of leaving the EU in a “Polexit”. Support for membership remains very high in Poland, which has benefited enormously from funding from the bloc it joined in 2004.
Speaking on Wednesday, a senior Polish diplomat adopted a conciliatory tone, saying the Polish court has not challenged EU laws but the particular interpretations of some of them.
Warsaw – backed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – wants to return power to national capitals and has attacked what it says are excessive powers held by the Commission.
While many are increasingly frustrated by failed attempts to convince Warsaw to change course, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has long warned against isolating Poland.
Her influence, however, is weakened as she travels to Brussels for her last scheduled summit before she has to hand over to a new German chancellor after 16 years.
Beyond the pressure on Poland, leaders will also look at how to respond to a sharp rise in energy prices, discuss migration, their difficult relationship with Belarus and the COVID pandemic. -19.
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Additional reporting by Michel Rose, Andreas Rinke, Sabine Siebold; written by Gabriela Baczynska; edited by Richard Pullin
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