Poland ups the ante against Brussels Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw | Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images
Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw | Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images
WARSAW â" Polandâs right-wing rulers continued to defy Brussels just as Hungary was getting raked over the coals by the EU.
Polish President Andrzej Duda sent letters to seven Supreme Court justices on Wednesday to inform them they are being withdrawn from the court under a new law that lowers the retirement age of judges to 65. The court has contested the legality of the law, and asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the issue, but Dud a has not waited for the EU courtâs verdict.
It came a day after Duda, a former member of the European Parliament, unleashed a fierce verbal attack on the EU, calling it an âillusory community from which there are little results for us.â
Polandâs ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) government is engaged in a bitter battle with Brussels over its deep reforms of the courts, which European institutions see as part of a broader attempt by the party to bring the judicial system under political control.
Hungary on Wednesday became the first EU member to have a disciplinary procedure launched against it by the European Parliament for violating the blocâs democratic norms. Like Hungary, Poland faces a so-called Article 7 process, which could see it lose its voting rights as an EU member.
Poland has received more than â¬100 billion in EU funds that have helped transform the country since it joined the bloc in 2004.
Ma Ågorzata Gersdorf, the Supreme Courtâs president who is also supposed to be retired under the new law, refused to comply, showing up for work on Wednesday morning. Under the Polish constitution, her six-year term of office expires in 2020.
âIâll be directing the work of the Supreme Court today,â she said.
Dudaâs office has designated another judge to head the court, although he told the media that he still recognizes Gersdorf as being the courtâs president.
Poland is closely allied with Hungary in resisting pressure from Brussels. In Wednesdayâs European Parliament vote, MEPs from Law and Justice sided with Hungaryâs Fidesz parliamen tarians in voting against the Article 7 resolution.
However, Law and Justice insists that it is not against membership in the EU â" which is hugely popular in Poland. Poland has received more than â¬100 billion in EU funds that have helped transform the country since it joined the bloc in 2004, and millions of Poles have benefitted from the right to travel and work across the EU.
JarosÅaw KaczyÅski, the leader of PiS and Polandâs de facto ruler, recently underlined that his party has no interest in a Polexit. âPoles want to be in Europe and the European Union,â he said at a party conference earlier this month.
That wasnât the message sent by Duda on Tuesday when he spoke in the southeastern town of LeÅ¼ajsk.
âI want citizens to be convinced that someone is thinking about them, and not about some illusory community from which there are little results for us,â said Duda. âA community is needed here, in Poland â " our own community that focuses on our matters, because they are the most important matters for us.â
âWe have the right to rule on our own here and decide on our own what should be the shape of Poland,â he told the cheering crowd, after denouncing Europe for leaving Poland in Russiaâs clutches after World War II.
Dudaâs words prompted a rebuke from former Polish President Aleksander KwaÅniewski, who wrote in an open letter that his comments are âuntrue and dangerousâ and undermine Polish national interests.
Dudaâs chief of staff, Krzysztof Szczerski, said in a statement Wednesday that he is âvery surprisedâ that Dudaâs comments are seen as being controversial. What the president said is âright and strongâ and âone cannot create an artificial community that is imposed on states,â he said.
Dudaâs call for Poland to be left alone is unlikely to be heeded by Brussels. On Tuesday the Polish Supreme Court sent yet another requ est to the ECJ asking for a ruling on whether members of the National Judiciary Council â" a body that nominates new judges â" were elected in compliance with the Polish constitution and European standards.
âThe European Union is a community of law. Respecting the rule of law and abiding by Court decisions are not optionalâ â" Jean-Claude Juncker
The ECJ isnât expected to rule for some time, and itâs not clear how Warsaw will react to any negative verdicts.
While Polish Deputy Prime Minister JarosÅaw Gowin said the government would âignoreâ ECJ rulings, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz recently sent a more positive message to the tribunal, saying: âThere is no fear that we could demonstratively not accept an unfavorable ruling of the ECJ.â
That was a point stressed by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union speech on Wednesday.
âWe need to be very clear on one poin t: judgements from the Court of Justice must be respected and implemented. This is vital. The European Union is a community of law. Respecting the rule of law and abiding by Court decisions are not optional.â
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