EU member states 'questioning union' following Poland clash
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Announcing the move this afternoon, David Sassoli, European Parliament president, said: “We expect the European Commission to act in a consistent manner. Words have to be turned into deeds.”
MEPs have been threatening litigation over the European Commission’s perceived hesitancy to act against the two member states over ongoing allegations that they are undermining their own democracies.
The action had been brought because of the European Commission’s “failure to apply the Conditionality Regulation to the Court of Justice today”, Mr Sassoli stated.
The lawsuit, which was submitted to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), is intended to force the European Commission to activate a mechanism, in force since the beginning of the year, that is designed to withhold EU funds from member states.
The mechanism was established in response to concerns of democratic backsliding in Hungary and Poland, on matters such as judicial independence and media freedom.
However, it can only be activated if there is a clear risk of misuse of EU money due to such violations.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has previously indicated that she would be willing to activate the mechanism.
However, the European Commission said it was awaiting an ECJ ruling on the legality of the tool.
Angela Merkel has previously stated that she finds it “saddening” that so many internal EU disputes are having to go through litigation.
The outgoing German Chancellor added that she was “concerned about the large number of cases that are now being settled in court.”
Ms Merkel told reporters: “from my point of view, I find it a bit saddening, if I may say so cautiously, when Parliament says that now we may have to sue the Commission.
“I don’t think that will lead to anything.”
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The EU’s relationship with Poland has become increasingly strained in recent weeks.
At the beginning of October, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that some parts of EU treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution, challenging European integration.
The decision was welcomed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the largest party in Poland’s governing coalition.
He said that any different ruling would effectively mean that “Poland is not a sovereign state”, and insisted that the EU had no right to interfere in the country’s administration of justice.
The European Commission said the ruling raised “serious concerns” and reaffirmed that “EU law has primacy over national law, including constitutional provisions”.
Poland was then ordered to pay a million euros (£846,000) for every day it fails to comply with the EU by maintaining its tribunal for hiring and firing judges.
Polish Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta tweeted that the demand amounted to “usurpation and blackmail”.
In a piece written for Politico, Stefan Auer, a professor of European studies at the University of Hong Kong, and Nicole Scicluna, a professor in government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, said that the move was “more worrying for the EU” than Poland leaving the EU.
The country’s “place in Europe is still quite secure”, the experts said, but “what is less assured, however, is the future of the EU as a quasi-federation.”
When “the EU’s member countries had an opportunity to explicitly recognize EU law’s primacy over national law, they didn’t take it”, the professors said.
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