Author: CHRIS JEWERS FOR MAILONLINE
Poland has issued a Brexit-related warning to the European Union after the bloc ordered them to bring in judicial reform, or face fines.
A spokesman for Poland’s conservative nationalist governing party, Law and Justice, said Thursday it would ‘have to search for drastic solutions’ to its dispute with the EU, before pointing to Britain and its exit from the Bloc.
Speaking during a discussion at an economic forum in Poland, Ryszard Terlecki said that the party wants to remain in the EU and have a cooperative relationship, but that the EU ‘should be acceptable to us.’
‘If things go the way they are likely to go, we will have to search for drastic solutions,’ he warned. ‘The British showed that the dictatorship of the Brussels bureaucracy did not suit them and turned around and left,’ he said, referring to Brexit.
His comments came after the European Commission said on Tuesday that it had asked the EU’s court of justice to impose daily fines on Poland over its rule of law, and a controversial chamber of the Polish Supreme Court that disciplines judges and prosecutors.
The EU’s justice commissioner has also suggested withholding the country’s Covid-19 recovery funds until it brings in the judicial reform and removes the chamber.
Brussels argues it threatens the country’s judicial independence, and despite Warsaw saying it would dismantle the chamber, the EU said Poland had ‘not taken all the measures necessary.’
In response to Terlecki’s warning, Polish opposition politicians accused the governing party of putting Poland’s membership in the EU in danger.
Former President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who is now the leader of Poland’s opposition party – Civic Platform – warned today of the ‘constant undermining’ or Poland’s presence in the EU by the Law and Justice party.
When asked whether he was confident of Poland’s continued membership of the EU, he said: ‘No, I don’t have such peace of mind and no-one should have.
‘Disasters such as, for example Brexit, or Poland’s potential exit from the EU, very often happen not because someone has planned them, but because someone has been unable to plan a wise alternative to such a potential drama.’
Government spokesman Piotr Mueller denied that there is any intention to leave the 27-member bloc, saying: ‘We will not follow the way of Great Britain.’
Terlecki, who is also the leader of the ruling party’s group in parliament, spoke after the bloc moved earlier this week to punish Poland financially for actions that increase the governing party’s control over the courts.
Brussels says they are against EU law.
seeking Poland’s departure from the EU. Senate Speaker Tomasz Grodzki said it would not be in Poland’s interest to leave the EU.
Amid the uproar, Terlecki tweeted Thursday that he does not support leaving the bloc, saying: ‘Poland was, is and will be a member of the EU.
Despite the Polish government’s long-running disputes with the EU, surveys show that the vast majority of Poles are in favour of membership of the bloc.
Hungary, seen as a close ally of Poland’s in the EU bloc – hit out at Brussels for pushing to impose fines over its judicial reform.
Hungary’s justice minister Judit Varga accused the EU of ‘attacking’ Warsaw and intervening in its legislative process, and called Brussels ‘scandalous and arrogant’ to dismantle the controversial chamber.
‘The European Commission made a rude attack on Poland,’ the justice minister said in a post on Facebook.
‘The procedure is not only outrageous but also completely unacceptable … With this scandalous and arrogant step, the Commission crossed a border that we previously thought was unimaginable,’ she added. ‘We broadly endorse Poland and show solidarity with our Polish friends.’
Hungary and Poland have been key allies in recent years, with both being ruled by nationalist governments that have locked horns with Brussels over press freedoms and LGBT rights.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also assured Polish President Andrzej Duda that his government would give ‘solidarity and support’ and, during a Thursday meeting between the pair, accused Brussels of ‘abusing its power’.
Poland has also been told by the European Union that it will need to prove that it is no longer defying the EU court over its judicial independence in order to start receiving its Covid-19 recovery money.
Didier Reynders, the EU’s justice commissioner, said that it was logical that the EU would not distribute the €36bn Poland had applied for under the Bloc’s recovery package, which is awaiting approval from the European Commission.
That is until it has made a ‘real change’ to its disciplinary chamber for judges, Reynders said, before adding that the penalties should be as high as €1m a day for Poland, although he stressed the amount was up to the court.
‘I must say that we are at the end of the so-called dialogue on this with Poland. We have tried to engage in a real dialogue with some letters and some documents, then before the Court,’ Reynders said, according to The Financial Times.
‘We have received positive reactions from the Court of Justice but there is no intention from Poland to be in full compliance with ECJ rulings, and so the next step is financial.’
The EU is also at loggerheads with Poland over issues ranging from a challenge by its government to the primacy of EU law to LGBT rights and press freedoms.
The Commission recently warned five Polish regional councils they could lose funding over declarations that they were ‘LGBT-free’, and it has said Warsaw’s position that EU law does not stand above national law is holding up the release of 57 billion euros in EU recovery funds.
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro accused the EU of double standards, saying the justice systems of other European countries functioned in a similar way to Poland’s.
‘Today’s decision… is another manifestation of the European Commission’s aggression towards Poland, an attempt to limit our sovereignty and an attack on the Polish legal order,’ he told a press conference.
The EU says the Polish chamber is being used to pressure judges or exert political control over judicial decisions and its top court, ruling that it undercuts EU law, has ordered that it be dissolved.
The Polish government said three weeks ago that the chamber would be dismantled as part of wider judiciary reforms in coming months, but the executive Commission said it was now taking action.
‘The Commission is asking the Court to impose a daily penalty payment on Poland for as long as the measures imposed by the court’s order are not fully implemented,’ the Commission said in a statement.
The European Commission argues that, while the chamber may not be accepting any new cases, it is still working through existing cases.
Piotr Muller said it would present its proposals for judicial reform in the autumn.