THE EU Commission is bracing for a serious clash with Poland as it awaits a court ruling on the country’s controversial judicial review.
A top Polish court postponed a ruling on whether the constitution takes precedence over EU treaties on Tuesday, in a case that could bring Warsaw’s conflict with Brussels over the rule of law to ahead. The Constitutional Tribunal adjourned proceedings and will resume on Thursday.
Warsaw aims to hit back at what it says is unjustified interference in its internal affairs by the European Commission. Still, critics say that questioning the primacy of EU law undermines the functioning of the bloc and jeopardises Poland’s continued membership.
Poland is embroiled in a long-running dispute with the EU executive over judicial reforms, which critics say undermine the independence of the judiciary, but which the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party say are needed to make courts function more effectively and remove a residue of communist influence.
PiS says the EU is interfering in Poland’s right to make its own laws by challenging the reforms. In March, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asked the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether Poland’s constitution should take precedence.
The European Commission has asked Poland not to question the primacy of EU law, expressing concern that it is contesting the bloc’s fundamental principles.
Human Rights Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, a vocal government critic, warned the court that choosing not to follow EU law could have serious consequences.
As part of proceedings initiated by Brussels against Poland, the EU Court of Justice told Warsaw last year to suspend a panel created to discipline judges.
The panel – the Supreme Court’s disciplinary chamber – asked the Constitutional Tribunal whether such a suspension was constitutional. The tribunal will rule on this on Wednesday. Government critics say the Constitutional Tribunal itself has become politicised due to PiS’s reforms, an accusation the government denies.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in May that a Polish company had been denied its right to a proper hearing in the Constitutional Tribunal due to the illegal appointment of a judge.
The upcoming row with Poland will be alongside the Commission’s ongoing battle with Viktor Orban’s Hungary. Both countries have long argued Brussels is attempting to punish them for having elected right-of-centre governments.
Last month, European Parliament vice-President Katarina Barley scolded the Commission over its inaction against the two countries.
Hitting out at Ursula von der Leyen’s reluctance to act firmly against Poland and Hungary’s judicial systems, Ms Barley said time was pressing to save the EU.