Not only Hungary, but also Poland is increasingly coming under fire from the EU institutions for allegedly violating EU values and the rule of law. But the national conservative government in Warsaw does not seem willing to bow to the will of the EU. The most recent controversy was sparked by judicial reform measures in Poland.
In its judgment on Wednesday, the Polish Constitutional Court confirmed the primacy of national law over EU law. The verdict is the result of proceedings initiated by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). The party referred the question of the reform of the Polish legal system and its sharp criticism by the EU to the Constitutional Court, which ruled that
national law should take precedence over EU law.
Following the announcement of the judgment of the Polish Constitutional Court, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said that the Polish constitution and legality take precedence over attempts to politically use EU bodies to interfere in the internal affairs of member states, in this case Poland. Ziobro also stated that the Polish Constitution is the country’s main legal document. Poland’s decision to give priority to national law is not without precedent, most recently last year when the German constitutional court overturned a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
“The decision of the Polish Constitutional Court confirms the EU’s concerns about the state of the rule of law in Poland,” the Commission said in a statement on Thursday, recalling that EU law takes precedence over national law. The Polish human rights commissioner Adam Bodnar commented on the judgment by saying that the decision was a further step towards Poland’s departure from EU law and a de facto decoupling from European legality. Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the recently returned chairman of the center-right liberal opposition party Civic Platform, said, “PiS would leave the EU and it was up to the Poles to prevent it.” Manfred Weber, chairman of the European People’s Party,
What’s behind the debate?
The Polish decision came after the European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Poland and referred the case, in which Polish judges are involved, to the Court of Justice of the European Union after finding that Warsaw had not taken into account the recommendations from Brussels.
Last January, the Warsaw Parliament passed a bill under which
Judges are to be punished who are politically active or who publicly criticize the appointment of their fellow judges.
The punishment can include fines, cuts in salaries, or dismissal. The move was made necessary by the government’s justification as the Labor Chamber of the Supreme Court questioned the existence of another body in the same institution, the new Disciplinary Chamber. According to the Chamber of Labor, the members of the Disciplinary Chamber are not independent from the government as they were appointed by the head of state on the basis of the opinion of the Polish Judicial Council of the PiS. According to the judges, the council itself is not clearly independent of the authorities.
The European Commission also found that the independence and impartiality of the disciplinary body was not guaranteed. The EU’s disciplinary system allows the content of decisions made by judges in ordinary courts to be qualified as a disciplinary offense. Accordingly, the decision could be used for political control of court decisions or to exert pressure on judges in order to influence their decision-making, ”it says.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had previously accused critics of accepting judges appointed by the Communist State Council while questioning the status of judges who were legally elected in accordance with the Polish constitution.
Source: Magyar Nemzet