EU-Poland’s worsened relations and what it means for the EaP
Nino Chanadiri, MA, Ilia State University
Relations between Poland and the EU have been strained since Poland’s Constitutional Court ruled on October 7th that Polish laws are superior to those of the EU if they come into conflict with the Polish Constitution. The tribunal started to review the supremacy of the law in July after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) pointed out that Poland’s latest judicial system changes were in violation of EU laws, claiming a risk of political control over judges and the judicial system being put into question regarding its independence and impartiality. The Polish Constitutional Court’s ruling essentially means the rejection of the primacy of EU law, which is a foundation for the European Union. So, unsurprisingly, this creates a crisis for the EU.
The response from the EU was strong and clear: that the Commission will analyze the ruling of the Polish constitutional tribunal. However, it has already stressed its position that EU law has primacy over national laws and all rulings by the ECJ are binding for all member state authorities, including national courts. It also said it will not hesitate to use its power to safeguard this principle. The decision of the Constitutional Court caused protests in Poland, and people gathered to show support to the EU. Donald Tusk, the former EU leader and ex-Prime Minister of Poland, also joined the protests and urged people to defend Poland’s democratic achievements and continued membership of the EU.
Background to the controversy
Since 2015, when the current ruling right-wing conservative party ‘Law and Justice’ came to power, Poland started to face problems with Brussels over a number of topics, including the rule of law. Poland began periodically initiating controversial judicial reforms which have been repeatedly condemned by the EU. The explanation for the reforms was the aim to “cleanse the courts from communist era mentalities and corruption.” Examples include changes in the supreme court, such as lowering the retirement age from 70 to 65, as a result of which dozens of judges lost their positions. However, the European Court of Justice ruled this was illegal and ordered Poland to reinstate the judges. The same happened in general courts, where the retirement age was lowered from 67 to 60 for women and to 65 for men. The law left the right to extend the period of a judge’s active service to the Minister of Justice, which, as the ECJ said, meant that the executive could have influence on the judiciary.
Another wave of criticism followed after Poland initiated a law to introduce disciplinary measures for judges, meaning they could be investigated and sanctioned for their court rulings by judges selected via Parliament and appointed to disciplinary hearings. Officials from the UN and EU say that this bill could result in judges being removed for their decisions, such as those against government reforms. In March 2019, the European Commission stated that the new disciplinary regime undermined judicial independence. The case was referred to the ECJ. In July 2021, the ECJ ruled that the disciplinary regime is not compatible with EU law.
The ECJ’s ruling was followed by Poland’s deciding that it is not going to put EU law superior to national law. This decision was supported in Hungary, which shares the position that national constitutional courts have the right to examine the limits of EU competences.
Is it leading to a potential Polexit? What do the people want?
The Polish Constitutional Court’s decision was certainly risky, and it might have financial consequences for Poland, as conversations about fining it for ignoring ECJ rulings have been reported. But now, another question is being actively heard in Western media as to whether this might lead to Polexit or result in a Polish Euromaidan. The Polish government has said it has no plans to leave the Union. And, indeed, it will be far more difficult for Poland to make this decision than it was for Britain, as there is no public support for it. September polls showed that 88% of Poles want to remain in the EU, and the number is bigger in large cities. They also showed that 57% of Poles do not think Polexit is a realistic scenario, while 30% think it could happen. It can be assumed that if the situation leads to Polexit, it will be met by high public resistance, which could dangerously escalate the situation in Poland.
Why is this important for the EaP and Georgia?
The relationship between Poland and the EU is important for EaP countries, including Georgia. The EaP has benefited from Poland’s support. Poland, together with Sweden, proposed the creation of the EaP in May 2008, being interested in stabilizing the Eastern neighborhood and minimizing Russian influence. Poland has also supported those EaP countries with AA to get confirmation that their European aspirations are being taken seriously. The EaP was initiated during the ‘Civic Platform’ party government, which nowadays is in the opposition. Analysts have been saying that internal political disagreements between the ‘Civic Platform’ and ‘Law and Justice’ parties have impacted every political aspect of Poland, including international affairs. However, the EU has often mentioned that Poland remains a key supporter when it comes to relations with Eastern neighbors and the EU enlargement policy. But if the Polish trend of strained relations with the EU continues, it will be difficult to say how long its voice is going to have an influence.
On the other hand, tendencies in member states, which are seen by Brussels as illiberal, are becoming a challenge for the EU founding principles. This might push the EU to concentrate on dealing with these challenges through strengthened internal integration. It is very likely to have an influence on the EU's vision for neighborhood partnerships, and result in diminishing possibilities of further enlargement. However, it does not mean abandoning neighborhood policies. Depending on the situation in the EaP countries, it is more likely that the EU will work on deepening cooperation with them and helping them to come closer to EU standards, rather than accepting their accession wishes in the near future.
- The 11th package of EU sanctions and Georgia
- Power of the people in Georgia: The EU must remain vigilant
- A Looming Winter Energy Crisis in Europe: Can Azerbaijan Become the Continent’s Next Large Energy Supplier?
- The Russian Exclave of Kaliningrad and the Lithuanian "Sting"
- Czech Presidency of the EU: Time for Re-orienting EU Foreign Policy?
- What could be the cost of “Putin’s face-saving” for European relations
- In line for the candidate status, Georgia will get a European perspective. What are we worried about?
- The break-up of the Hungarian-Polish coalition - an opportunity for the EU
- Failed Tskhinvali Referendum
- The War and Georgia
- "Autocratic Peace"
- “Rural Orbanism”- Polarization as a determinant for Hungary's political future
- Illegal Presidential Elections in the Tskhinvali Region: Why Bibilov Lost and What to Anticipate in Future
- How to Respond to Russian Ultra-Orthodox-Historic-Hegemonism?
- The War in Ukraine and the UK’s New Role in Eastern Europe
- What Will the Abolition of the OSCE Minsk Group Bring to the South Caucasus?
- The Presidential Election in France and Europe’s Political Future
- Will Pashinyan Be Able to Make a Drastic Turnaround in Armenian-Azerbaijani Relations?
- Why Has the Abkhaz Side Become More Active on Social Networks?
- Why a Neutral Ukraine Is Not on Putin’s Mind (Ukraine’s Neutral Status Is Getting Closer, but What Does It Mean to Putin?)
- Europe's energy future - challenges and opportunities
- Uncontrolled Mass Immigration and the Position of the Georgian Government
- Changes in Putin's propaganda narratives since the Russian invasion of Ukraine
- Ukraine will soon embark on a path of practical integration into the European Union. What about Georgia?
- Positions and Actions of Turkey in the Russo-Ukrainian War
- NATO’s possible expansion in Northern Europe and its significance for Georgia and Ukraine
- Political Winter Olympics in Beijing
- What Is behind Putin’s Sudden Gambit in Ukraine?
- Abkhazia in 2021: Energy Crisis, New “Minister” and Political Controversy
- L'Europe pourra-t-elle éviter le “déjà vu” ? (France, President of the Council of the European Union, and the Tensions in Eastern Europe)
- US-Russia Relations and the Issue of Ukraine
- The New Targets of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Regime
- What are the Prospects of the Eastern Partnership Summit Set on 15 December?
- The Upcoming EaP Summit - Why the Trio Initiative Should Finally Find Its Way
- What Will the Post-Merkel Era Mean for the EU’s Russia and Eastern Neighbourhood Policy?
- What Lies Behind the Growing Cooperation of the Georgian and Hungarian Governments
- “Doberman” as a Minister: Inal Ardzinba’s Prospects and Challenges
- The Belarus Crisis: How to Enhance Our Resilience Against the Russian Strategy for Its Near-Neighborhood
- Moldova’s Gas Crisis Has Been Russia’s Yet Another Political Blackmailing
- Lessons From Germany on Political Culture: What Georgia Can Learn From the German Parliamentary Elections
- Belarus One Year On: An Insecure Regime Under Russian “Protection”
- Why Did Iran-Azerbaijan Relations Become Strained?
- Russia’s Parliamentary Elections - What Can Be Said About the Regime’s Stability
- Six Key Takeaways from State of the Union Address - Too Little on EU Enlargement?
- An Emerging Foreign Policy Trend in Central and Eastern Europe: A Turn from China to Taiwan?
- Vaccination: “To Be, or not to Be”…
- Sharia Patrols in Kabardino-Balkaria: A Growing Trend or a Local Conflict?
- Belarus’ exit from the Eastern Partnership and what to expect next
- Pacta Sunt Servanda: Agreements must be kept
- The West vs Russia: The Reset once again?!
- Associated Trio, What is Next?
- Formation of a New “Political Elite” in Abkhazia - Who Will Replace the Old “Elite?”
- The symbolism of the EU flag and why a true Christian would not tear it down and burn it
- Securitization of the Arctic: A Looming Threat of Melting Ice
- The Issue of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region in the Context of NATO and European Union Membership
- (Re)Mapping the EU’s Relations with Russia: Time for Change?
- The Political Crisis in Moldova: A Deadlock without the Way Out?
- ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’: A New Opportunity for Global Authoritarian Influence?
- Deal with the ‘Dragon’: What Can Be the Repercussions of the China-EU Investment Agreement?
- Georgia’s Application for European Union Membership
- Who did the judge sentence: Navalny, Putin or Russia?
- Biden’s Conundrum
- 2020 Developments in Abkhazia: “Elections,” the Pandemic and Deeper Integration with Russia
- The Hungarian Crisis: Is the EU Failing against Authoritarianism?
- Could Belarus Become a Prelude to the Great Polish-Swedish War 400 Years Ago?
- COVID 19 Pandemic Economic Crisis and Reducing the Instability of Georgia’s National Currency
- Some Thoughts on the Use of the Term „Post-Soviet Space“
- Georgia’s European Way During the Period of Pandemic Deglobalization
- Turkey's Caucasus Policy Against the Backdrop of the Latest Armenia-Azerbaijan Tensions
- Khabarovsk Krai Protests as an Indicator of the Russian Federation’s Stability
- Political Crisis in Occupied Abkhazia
- What is the Significance of Killing General Qasem Soleimani?
- What Will the New Dialogue Format with Russia Bring for Georgia?
- On the “Russian Culture Center” in Georgia
- Whither Economic Policy?
- Main Messages of Russian Propaganda
- Massive Cyberattacks On Georgia Calls For Defense And Resilience
- What do we know about the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Georgia?
- New Focuses of the Anti-Occupation Policy
- Georgia's Problems are not Addressed at G7 Meetings: Who is to Blame?
- The Outcome of the European Parliament Elections - What Does it Mean for Georgia?
- Ten Years Since the Establishment of the Eastern Partnership
- Deterring Russia
- A New Chance for Circular Labor Migration between Georgia and the EU
- EU Soft Power and the Armenian [R]evolution
- Who Gets Russian Help?
- Is Georgia’s Export Growth Sustainable?
- Putin’s Visit to the Occupied Abkhazia: Was our Reaction Actually Adequate?
- Pence’s Visit to Georgia: Several Lessons and What We Should be Expecting
- Is it Acceptable for Georgia to Declare Neutrality?
- Georgia’s European Perspective in the Context of EU’s Future Evolution
- Brexit Negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom have been re-launched: What will be their Influence on Georgia?
- How to Stop the “Creeping Occupation”
- Kremlin’s Policy in the Occupied Regions of Georgia Moves to a New Stage
- Syrian Civil War in the Context of Regional Security
- The Winnable Second Round of Russia’s Neighbors’ Struggle against Its Imperialism
- Turkey’s Domestic and Foreign Policy in the Context of Regional Security
- Post-Soviet States – Struggle for the Legitimation of Power
- New Russian Weaponry in the Caucasus and Its Impact on Georgia’s NATO Aspiration