Poland’s Constitutional Court challenges EU on last day of ultra-conservative government’s term | International

The Polish Constitutional Court has once again challenged the EU with a judgment which considers fines imposed for non-compliance with precautionary measures decided by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) as incompatible with the Polish Constitution. The decision was made public on the same day that the country buried the mandate of the ultraconservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in the Sejm (the lower house), after the High Court remained paralyzed for almost a year due to conflicts internal. disputes. This constitutional ruling joins previous decisions which declared the supremacy of national law over European law. A few hours later, the plenary session also decided that the judicial reform approved by the Polish Parliament last January to release European funds suspended in Warsaw by the Commission was unconstitutional.

The case has been before the Constitutional Court for two years and has been repeatedly delayed. The last one, last Tuesday. It was former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, from the most Eurosceptic wing of the PiS-led government, who also served as state attorney general, who brought the issue of unconstitutionality before the tribunal.

The Constitutional Court ruled that Article 279 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is incompatible with the European Constitution and that Warsaw is therefore not obliged to pay the fines ordered by the CJEU. It also considers Article 39 of the Statute of the European Court to be incompatible and specifies that its President cannot take precautionary measures concerning the structure and functioning of the Polish judicial system.

Economic sanctions

The CJEU imposed economic sanctions on Warsaw after the PiS government ignored the court’s precautionary measures. In the best known case, the fine amounted to one million euros per day for not having suspended the activity of the disciplinary chamber of judges of the Supreme Court, one of the main reasons for the conflict with Brussels because of the rule of law. . The fine of one million euros was later reduced by half.

The European Court also ordered Poland to pay an additional 500,000 euros per day for failing to stop lignite mining at the Turów mine. The financial sanction was suspended when the Czech Republic withdrew its complaint. The sanction of the disciplinary chamber amounts to 550 million euros and that of the mine, 69 million, according to local media.

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The Polish Constitutional Court had already declared in July 2021 the precautionary measures of the European High Court incompatible with the Polish Constitution. But in October of the same year, she launched the country’s biggest offensive against the EU, ruling that several articles of the treaties They are unconstitutional in their country. This decision contradicts one of the fundamental pillars of the EU: the primacy of community law over national law. The liberal opposition at the time took to the streets to protest en masse, believing that this measure constituted a measure Polexit fully legal, that is, Poland’s exit from the EU, at least as far as the law is concerned. The European Commission took Poland to the European courts over this matter last February.

The Constitutional Court had been blocked for months due to an internal conflict between judges associated with the two currents of the outgoing ultra-conservative government. Six of them did not recognize the legitimacy of the presidential mandate, which they considered to have expired, and refused to participate in decisions, thus preventing the necessary quorum from being achieved. The confrontation has left in uncertainty issues such as the reform of the Supreme Court, approved to unlock the more than 35 billion euros in recovery funds suspended by Brussels. This Monday, the judges also ruled on this case, opened last February by President Andrzej Duda, and declared unconstitutional the legislative changes that the outgoing government had agreed with the Commission.

The liberal opposition which is now coming to power in Poland and jurists have been denouncing for years that this court is a tool in the service of Law and Justice. Their decisions, they criticize, have been taken in recent years under the dictation of the outgoing ultra-conservative government. It is one of the institutions considered the most problematic of the PiS era, which has made controversial decisions such as the practical ban on abortion in 2020. The new executive led by Donald Tusk, which is expected to take his functions this Wednesday after having received the support of the parliamentary majority on Tuesday, has it in his sights, aware however that this is not a simple question to resolve. PiS has appointed three judges pejoratively called “double” or “fake judges” who are easy to dismiss, but not the rest of the judges.

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