Polexit fears erupt as Warsaw rages at EU over ‘political cost’ of Brussels clampdown

EU: Expert on fears of Poland being 'marginalised'

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The stark warning came after the European Commission asked the European Court of Justice to fine Warsaw for ignoring a court ruling over the country’s judicial reforms. It is the latest in a bitter stand-off between Warsaw and Brussels over the supremacy of EU law over national rules. The Commission’s top officials used the threat to pile pressure on Poland to dismantle its disciplinary chamber for judges.

The Polish government said three weeks ago that the regime would shut down as part of a wider judiciary reform in the coming months.

EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said Brussels wanted to slap Warsaw with fines that were bigger than the 100,000 euros a day demanded for logging in the Bialowieza forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

He told Polsat News that this threat was designed to put “real pressure” on Poland to come back into line with EU rules.

The EU is also at loggerheads with Warsaw over issues ranging from a challenge by its government to the primacy of EU law to LGBT rights and press freedoms.

The long-running spat escalated last week when the EU’s economy commissioner said Poland’s request for funds from the bloc’s coronavirus recovery fund would be hindered by the country’s refusal to respect its rules.

Paolo Gentiloni said Warsaw’s legal battles with Brussels had “possible consequences” for the Polish recovery plan.

Konrad Szymanski, Poland’s EU affairs minister, said the stand-off was harming the EU’s standing in the country.

He said: “In terms of the political costs of this – due to the disturbances that we are observing – their scale is unclear today, but there are some: there is certainly a political cost for the EU in Poland.”

He added: “Poland is owed money from the European Union budget and the reconstruction fund.

“Not because of this or that attitude of whichever political capitals or EU institutions. But as a result of international agreements, from the law.”

The Polish government responded to the Commission’s move by accusing the EU of “acts of aggression”.

Piotr Muller, the government’s spokesman, said: “In every EU member state, including Poland, the executive power is independent from the judiciary.

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“The organisation of the judiciary in Poland is autonomous and cannot be imposed on by the European Commission, but rather it must implement those directives that are specified in the constitution of our country.”

And Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro accused the EU of double standards.

He said the justice systems of other European countries functioned in a similar way to Poland’s.

“Today’s decision… is another manifestation of the European Commission’s aggression towards Poland, an attempt to limit our sovereignty and an attack on the Polish legal order,” he told a press conference.

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The Commission’s request for the ECJ to slap Poland with fines comes after the country refused to comply with interim measures imposed in July by the bloc’s top court.

In a statement, the EU’s Brussels-based executive said: “The Commission is asking the court to impose a daily penalty payment on Poland for as long as the measures imposed by the court’s order are not fully implemented.”

The court ordered Warsaw to disband its disciplinary chamber for judges, which critics say allows politicians to meddle in the independence of the judiciary.

A senior Commission official conceded that Brussels’ decision to demand finds was a “very uncommon step” and came after a lot of soul-searching.

The insider said: “This is a very uncommon step … and it’s not an easy step to take for the Commission.”

While members of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice claimed the EU’s actions had hardened eurosceptic views, surveys show that the vast majority of Poles are in favour of membership of the bloc.

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