In a heated plenary debate with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Slovenian Foreign Affairs Minister Anže Logar, most MEPs condemned the contentious ruling of 7 October by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. They called into question the independence of the court itself and warned against the Polish government’s regressive path towards totalitarianism. MEPs stressed that all EU countries voluntarily agree to common rules when they join the Union and insisted that there is no conflict between the EU legal order and the Polish Constitution.
On behalf of the Slovenian Presidency, Minister Logar said that the primacy of EU law is the foundation of the EU and the basis for living together in a common European home. He underlined that Council is intensively debating the question of the rule of law and that the Presidency is committed to advancing Article 7 proceedings.
“The ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court puts into question the foundation of the EU and is a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order”, stated Commission President von der Leyen. “It is the first time that a court from a member state finds the EU treaties incompatible with a national constitution”, she continued. She announced that the Commission will act, citing infringement procedures, the conditionality mechanism and other financial tools to protect the EU budget against breaches to the rule of law, as well as the Article 7 procedure, determining a serious breach of EU values.
Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki argued that “the primacy of EU law does not extend to the constitutional system (…). The Polish Constitution is the highest legal act in Poland; it stands above any other principle of law”. He also claimed that the Constitutional courts in other member states, including Germany, France, Denmark, Spain, Italy andRomania, have in the past issued similar rulings to the one now under discussion.
Use all available tools to defend Polish citizens
A majority of MEPs asked the Commission to use all the tools at its disposal to, above all, defend Polish citizens and finally trigger the rule of law conditionality mechanism. They also asked for infringement procedures to be launched and for Council to finally act in accordance with Article 7 (TEU). MEPs voiced their strong support for Polish citizens who are taking to the streets to fight for rule of law and judges and prosecutors that continue to apply EU law, and called on Polish authorities to listen to and respect them.
On the other side, some MEPs criticised the EU institutions for worrying about the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers only in certain member states, saying that the primacy of EU law is being used to give more powers to the EU than originally defined in the treaties.