How Poland Ended Up Defying EU Law

Warsaw Poland
Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland at dusk, December 4, 2020 (Unsplash/Iwona Castiello d’Antonio)

Poland has escalated its rule-of-law dispute with the rest of the European Union by arguing its own laws supersede the EU’s, and indeed some EU laws are incompatible with the Polish Constitution.

The decision of the Constitutional Tribunal caps six years of legal battle that began when Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice party returned to power in 2015.

Here is a timeline of events and a look at what could happen next. Read more “How Poland Ended Up Defying EU Law”

EU “Government Shutdown” Looms

Berlaymont Brussels Belgium
The sun sets on the Berlaymont, seat of the European Commission, in Brussels, Belgium (Shutterstock/Jasmin Zurijeta)

The EU could face its own version of a government shutdown in January if Hungary and Poland veto the bloc’s seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, worth a combined €1.8 trillion, at this week’s European Council.

The far-right governments of the two countries oppose the introduction of a rule-of-law conditionality for EU subsidies. Hungarian and Polish voters, and other European countries, favor the proposal.

If leaders don’t find a solution this Thursday and Friday, the European Parliament would not have time to ratify the spending plans before the new year. The council isn’t due to meet again until March. Read more “EU “Government Shutdown” Looms”

EU Must Hold Firm in Rule-of-Law Dispute with Hungary, Poland

Viktor Orbán Giuseppe Conte
Prime Ministers Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Giuseppe Conte of Italy meet with other European leaders in Brussels, February 21 (European Council)

Hungary and Poland are holding up approval of the EU’s seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, worth a combined €1.8 trillion, vowing to jointly veto so long as the rest of the bloc insists on tying funds to compliance with the rule of law.

The countries’ far-right governments, which are already being probed by the EU for politicizing their judicial systems, claim they are defending national sovereignty from foreign interference.

Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, said he would not “subject Hungary to a situation where a simple majority imposes issues upon the Hungarian people they do not want.”

The problem with that statement: 25 of the EU’s 27 member states support the proposed rule-of-law conditionality, as do seven in ten Hungarians and Poles.

EU-wide support is as high as 77 percent, according to a poll commissioned by the European Parliament. Read more “EU Must Hold Firm in Rule-of-Law Dispute with Hungary, Poland”

Judicial Reforms Create Parallel Legal System in Poland

Mateusz Morawiecki
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki gives a speech at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, April 11, 2019 (KPRM/Adam Guz)

Poland’s ruling conservative party’s obsession with bending the legal system to its will is creating what the Financial Times calls a parallel legal system: one set of judges are loyal to Małgorzata Gersdorf’s still-independent Supreme Court while another obey the government-friendly Constitutional Tribunal. Read more “Judicial Reforms Create Parallel Legal System in Poland”

Poland Needs EU Support to Meet Climate Goals

Warsaw Poland
Warsaw, Poland at night (Unsplash/Łukasz Nieścioruk)

Poland will not be able to meet the EU’s 2050 zero-emissions target without additional funds. In an interview with the Financial Times, the country’s chief energy advisor, Piotr Naimski, argues that the European Union needs to take its particular circumstances into account.

Poland’s extreme reliance on coal makes the goal to reduce net emissions to zero a tall order. Coal generates about 80 percent of Poland’s electricity. It also curbs its reliance on Russian energy, which is of geopolitical significance.

There is a political consideration as well. Mining unions are still strong in Poland. The industry has long provided well-paying jobs with a high degree of stability. Miners enjoy special retirement provisions. This makes them a powerful voting bloc. Read more “Poland Needs EU Support to Meet Climate Goals”

Different Player, Same Game

Donald Trump Giuseppe Conte
American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

Donald Trump has not exactly shied away from advocating for better American relations with Russia. During his presidential campaign, he argued that “Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other toward defeating terrorism and restoring world peace.” He has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and accepted his denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But even Trump’s Russophilia is no match for geopolitical reality. Read more “Different Player, Same Game”

Setbacks for Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party

Mateusz Morawiecki
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki receives applause, February 6 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has suffered a number of setbacks in the last couple of months:

  • It lost local elections in Poland’s big cities and small towns.
  • The European Court of Justice forced it to reinstate 22 Supreme Court justices it had forced into retirement.
  • A bribery scandal at Poland’s financial regulator has thrown doubt on the party’s self-portrayal as “outsiders” who are cleaning up the mess made by corrupt liberal elites. Read more “Setbacks for Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party”

Law and Justice Continues Anti-Judicial Crusade

Andrzej Duda
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

There have been two developments this week in the attempts of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party to subject the judiciary to political control:

  1. The Senate approved legislation that makes it possible for the government to appoint the next Supreme Court chief justice.
  2. The European Court of Justice ruled that other EU countries can refuse extradition requests from Poland if they fear suspects may not receive a fair trial there. Read more “Law and Justice Continues Anti-Judicial Crusade”

Fetishizing Victimhood: From Poland to America

Poland’s ruling nationalist party has coined the awkward term “Polocaust” to describe the country’s suffering in World War II. At least one minister wants to dedicate a separate museum to the 1.9 million non-Jewish Poles who lost their lives in the conflict.

This comes after the government criminalized blaming Poles for the Holocaust and referenced its 123 years of partition by Austria, Germany and Russia when called out by the EU for illiberal judicial reforms.

Poland, according to the Law and Justice party, has only ever been a victim — until it came to power and restored Polish pride.

It is no coincidence that Law and Justice is popular in the eastern and more rural half of the country, where people have long felt marginalized by the Western-oriented liberal elite.

Nor is the party’s victim-mongering unique. Read more “Fetishizing Victimhood: From Poland to America”