Polish PM accuses EU of “blackmail” in clash over bloc laws – .

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Polish PM accuses EU of “blackmail” in clash over bloc laws – .


Strasbourg (France) (AFP)

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday accused the EU of “blackmail” in a public clash with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen over her country’s rejection of parts of EU law. EU.

The fierce dispute, which took place in the European Parliament, underscored the seriousness of the problem which, according to Brussels and Warsaw, threatens the cohesion of the bloc of 27 nations.

Von der Leyen, speaking just before and after Morawiecki spoke, warned that his Commission – tasked with monitoring EU treaties – “will act” to put the brakes on Poland.

She said a controversial October 7 ruling by the Polish Constitutional Court challenging the rule of EU law was an attempt “to ax European treaties by undermining their legitimacy”.

“Undermining one of these essential pillars puts our European democracy at risk. We cannot let this happen. We will not let this happen, ”she said.

Von der Leyen referred to a number of legal, financial and political options being considered, adding that “the rule of law and the treaties of the European Union must be defended with all the instruments at our disposal”.

– “Fundamental misunderstanding” –

Morawiecki, in a long speech, retaliated by saying “I will not let EU politicians blackmail Poland”.

Rejecting MEPs’ claims that Poland had taken a step towards leaving the EU with the decision, he insisted that his country’s place was firmly in the bloc.

Instead, he argued that there was a “fundamental misunderstanding” that EU law derived from its treaties could only be applied in specified areas and that the Polish constitution was supreme in all other aspects.

He suggested that the rule of law issue was being used as a “pretext” by Brussels to force Poland to align.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Polish court ruling was an attempt “to ax European treaties by undermining their legitimacy” POOL / AFP

The duel in parliament brought tensions between the European Commission and Warsaw, which have been simmering for years, to a climax.

The Commission criticized Warsaw for taking steps to suppress the independence of judges and other policies seen as lowering democratic standards.

The EU executive and MEPs have also criticized Poland for its ultra-conservative social policies pushed by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that restrict LGBTQ rights and almost completely ban abortions.

– Salvage cash –

One of the measures the Commission could use against Poland is to withhold recovery funds from an EU pooled fund set up for the bloc to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Poland’s plan, which calls for € 24 billion ($ 28 billion) in grants and € 12 billion in cheap loans, is still under assessment, with the Commission saying approval would come with conditions.

Von der Leyen hinted that the issue could eventually end up in the European Court of Justice, warning: “We have never lost a rule of law court case yet. ”

Poland, however, has the power to play the role of spoiler in several key EU policy areas that require unanimity from the 27 countries, including migration and tackling climate change.

He also has the backing of Hungary, another bête noire of Brussels considered to flout the rule of law.

EU leaders are due to hold a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. Quarrels over Poland could rise to the agenda, with the Netherlands and Luxembourg particularly critical of Warsaw.

As he went to a preparatory meeting of EU European affairs ministers on Tuesday, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told AFP: “Europe will not survive if the rule of law falls. . It’s very clear “.

European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, also present, said the Commission was “very concerned” by the quarrel with Poland.

“We will continue to debate the (Polish stimulus) plan,” he said, linking it to Poland’s judicial reforms.

“There must be both investments and reforms, and these reforms go to the independence of the courts, and so we are waiting for a very clear message on this subject,” he said.

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