‘You are playing with fire’: EU faces crisis after Polish court ruling

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World28 minutes ago (Oct 08, 2021 07:57AM ET)

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The flags of Poland and European Union flutter in front of the Polish parliament in Warsaw June 29, 2011. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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By Joanna Plucinska and Sabine Siebold

WARSAW (Reuters) -A Polish court ruling challenging the supremacy of EU law plunged the European Union into an existential crisis on Friday and raised the possibility of Poland leaving the 27-nation bloc.

Politicians across Europe voiced dismay at the court’s move to undermine the legal pillar on which the EU stands, with one minister warning the eastern European country that it was “playing with fire”.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said she was “deeply concerned” by the Thursday’s ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal and that the executive she leads would do all in its power to ensure the primacy of EU law.

Welcoming the court ruling, Poland’s prime minister said his country wanted to stay in the wealthy trade and political group it joined in 2004 but that each member state must be treated equally and with respect.

Warsaw has long been at odds with Brussels over democratic standards and the independence of its judiciary. But Thursday’s ruling that parts of EU law are incompatible with the Polish constitution put Warsaw and Brussels on a full collision course.

“We have to state clearly that this government in Poland is playing with fire,” Luxembourg’s minister for foreign affairs, Jean Asselborn, said on arrival for a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg.

“The primacy of European law is essential for the integration of Europe and living together in Europe. If this principle is broken, Europe as we know it, as it has been built with the Rome treaties, will cease to exist.”

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling was an attack on the EU that could lead to economic sanctions against Warsaw.

“It is most serious … There is the de facto risk of an exit from the European Union,” Beaune told BFM TV, adding that he did not want Poland to leave the bloc.

NO PLANS FOR ‘POLEXIT’

Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party government says it has no plans for a “Polexit” and – unlike Britain before its Brexit referendum in 2016 – popular support for membership of the EU is high in Poland.

The Constitutional Tribunal took on the case after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asked it whether EU institutions could stop Poland from reorganising its judiciary.

“We want a community of respect and not a grouping of those who are equal and more equal. This is our community, our Union,” Morawiecki said on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), referring to the EU. “This is the kind of Union we want and that’s the kind of Union we will create.”

Von der Leyen said in a statement that the EU’s 450 million citizens and its businesses need legal certainty, and her executive would use all the powers it has under EU treaties to ensure that the bloc’s law has primacy over national law.

She said the Commission would carry out a swift analysis to decide its next steps. Officials in Brussels said the decision could lead to a series of fines and legal cases against Warsaw that will take months, if not years, to play out.

‘You are playing with fire’: EU faces crisis after Polish court ruling

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