Poland’s Constitutional Court concluded this Thursday that some articles of European Union treaties are unconstitutional in the country, challenging a key principle of European integration.
The majority of the Polish Constitutional Court, 12 of the 14 judges in the chamber, maintains that despite being part of the EU, this does not give European courts supremacy over Polish judicial decisions and therefore means that Poland does not has transferred its sovereignty to the Union.
With this decision, the Polish Justice challenges the principle of primacy of European law over that of the Member States – enshrined by the Court of Justice of the EU in the Costa v Enel ruling of 1964 -, in the midst of negotiations between Brussels and Warsaw to approve the pandemic recovery plan.
Primacy of European Law, in question
“The primacy of constitutional law over other sources of law derives directly from the Constitution of the Republic of Poland,” tweeted this Thursday the spokesman for the Polish government, Piotr Muller, who welcomed the decision of the Constitutional Court, in line with the thesis of the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS, conservative).
More senior officials of the Polish government, such as the Secretary of State for Justice Sebastian Kaleta, have been quick to insist that Poland does not contravene European legislation but that this ruling confirms that the EU has sometimes gone beyond what is established. in the treaties.
Specifically, according to analyst Jakub Jaraczewski of the Berlin-based think tank Democracy Reporting International, the Polish Constitutional Court considers that Articles 1 and 19 of the EU Treaty are incompatible with the Polish Constitution as far as Polish courts are concerned. which give primacy to EU legislation and can ignore the Constitution and Polish laws. “Poland has just taken a legal step towards the abyss of ‘legal Polexit’,” Jaraczewski assessed.
From Brussels, the reactions have not been long in coming. The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, has asked the European Commission to take the necessary actions to not leave the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court without consequences.
For now, as they did with the ruling of the Karlsruhe Court in 2020, the European executive arm has reaffirmed in a statement the primacy of EU Law in the face of the setback of the Polish Constitutional Court. “The Commission will not hesitate to use its powers under the Treaties to safeguard the uniform application and integrity of Union law,” it warns.
One of the key tools for the European Commission in the coming years is the rule of conditionality that it has already begun to test: Member States will be able to receive the European funds that correspond to them as long as they respect the rule of law and the values collected in Article 2 of the EU Treaty. Hungary and Poland are opposed. This decision of the Polish Constitutional Court represents another chapter in the long list of disagreements between Warsaw and Brussels – in the midst of negotiations – that have marked recent years.