Also taking advantage of the political sides offered by the Italian sovereign right, Poland manages to pit the EU countries against each other and the European Parliament against the European Commission. Guilt of Warsaw and of the “painful and contradictory” position – the judgment comes from the Socialist and Democratic group of the Community Assembly – expressed by the premier Mateusz Morawiecki in the Strasbourg courtroom, last Tuesday 19 October? No; rather the fault of the lack of cohesion and courage of the leaders of the 27, who at the European Summit on Thursday and Friday did not show clear support for a Commission action against the Polish government to violations of the rule of law and European standards, which are also obvious.
Faced with the MEPs, Morawiecki denied any fantasy of Polexit: “For us – he said – European integration is a choice of civilization. We are here, this is our place and we are not going anywhere: we want Europe to become strong, ambitious and courageous again ”. Except immediately after affirming the sovereignty of Poland against the “double standards” and the “blackmail” of Brussels and denying any form of solidarity and sharing: participation in the Union is reduced to the collection of structural and ‘post-pandemic’ funds.
The Polish premier left the Strasbourg courtroom amid criticism from the Commission and the spokespersons of all the ‘Europeanist’ parliamentary groups, the popular, the socialists, the liberals, the Greens, but receiving the support of the conservatives, of which the his party is the main component, and of the sovereignists. The harmony with the allies of Visegrad and in particular with Hungary is obvious: Budapest, like Warsaw, asks the EU “to respect the sovereignty of the member states”.
Two days later, on Thursday 21st, the leaders of the EU countries met in Brussels. And there Morawiecki was also able to count on the support, not entirely expected, from Lithuania. On the other hand, it is mainly the Netherlands that pushes for the EU to proceed against Poland on the basis of Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sanctions the failure to respect the fundamental principles of the Union, including the rule of law. the ‘frugal’ – the least inclined to grant funds to those who do not respect the rules – and the Benelux countries, guardians of community orthodoxy. But Germany, France and Italy are pressing the button of dialogue and are, therefore, reluctant to act; and at least five other leaders seemed “hesitant” on the hypothesis of going to the clash.
This creates the conditions for action by the European Parliament, where there is a majority to act, against the European Commission which, despite the harshness of the confrontation in Strasbourg between Morawiecki and the president Ursula von del Leyen, has not yet applied the regulation on the conditionality of the rule of law, which allows the EU to suspend EU payments to member states where the rule of law is threatened. The regulation was adopted last December to prevent EU funding from going to countries that do not comply with EU standards, like Poland, whose constitutional court affirms the superiority of Polish law over European law, in contrast to the Treaties, or Hungary, which pursues an “illiberal democracy” in contrast with the principles of the EU right from the start.
The President of the Parliament David Sassoli he asked the legal services of his institution to bring a lawsuit against the Commission, which will be withdrawn immediately if the Executive takes action as the Assembly wishes. The Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament had expressed itself with a vote to bring the case before the Court of Justice and then the Conference of Presidents of the Groups supported this position by a majority.
President Sassoli recalled: “EU states that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds. Last year, Parliament fought hard for a mechanism to guarantee this principle. But so far the Commission has been reluctant to put it into practice… The EU is a community founded on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. If these principles are threatened in a member state, the EU must act to protect them. ” Concepts that Sassoli reiterated to EU leaders, meeting them virtually before the opening, Thursday 21, of the European Council. But in the face of the reluctance of the leaders of the countries of the Union, emerged at the Summit, it is problematic for the Commission to proceed as requested by Parliament, even if it has the power to do so. Will the shock then come from the Court of Justice? Yes, if the judges have more courage, or more loyalty to the law, than politicians.
A clash, that between pro-Europeans and sovereigns, exploded at a political level in the hemicycle with the positions taken by the majority Ursula (EPP, S&D, Liberals) and the European Greens, who have expressed themselves widely in support of the Executive, against the group of identitarians (Identity and Democracy), where the Lega di Matteo Salvini, and the conservatives of the Ecr (which also counts among its ranks the majority Polish party, the Pis of Jaroslaw Kaczynski). The latter took the field in defense of Morawiecki, who despite taking half a step back (with the announcement of the abolition of the notorious disciplinary section for the judges of the Supreme Court in the EU’s crosshairs), recalled how his country fought also “against the Third Reich”, as proof of a spirit “proud” and ready to fight.
Someone has defined that between von der Leyen and Morawiecki a confrontation on the very existence of the European project, because, as the Luxembourg foreign minister observed, Jean Asselborn, the Union “would not survive the end” of the rule of law. “We reject” the accusations “of blackmail” from Warsaw – clarified the EU vice president, Vera Jurova, we want “respect for European principles”.
The Polish reaffirmed his willingness to remain in the Union, but not in a “centralizing super-state”, and cited excerpts of sentences from various European consultants, to corroborate his thesis. A weak argument, he was reproached, given that none of those courts has ever ruled the incompatibility of national rules with the European treaties.
What happened in Poland “touches the nerve of the rule of law and is unprecedented” attacked von der Leyen, recalling the doubts of the very legitimacy of the Polish Council, at the center of a procedure before the EU Court. “We will defend the rule of law in Poland by all means“, The leader warned, recalling the various weapons available. Some more or less blunt instruments, such as infringement procedures (there are already several in progress) or Article 7, which requires a unanimous vote (unlikely) to be taken to its extreme consequences, and others decidedly more blunt, such as the financial measures that link the disbursement of EU funds to the EU budget and the Recovery fund. Tens of billions that Poland could stop benefiting from within eight to nine months, according to the Commission’s legal services. But for the moment there is no agreement on this initiative at the European Council, with Germany and France who prefer to keep the dialogue open.