A ruling by the country’s constitutional tribunal is designed to undermine the European project from within
“We are staying!” – that was the slogan of choice for more than 100,000 protesters who marched through Warsaw on Sunday, expressing their fury at the idea of a possible “Polexit” from the European Union. For now, there is little reason to doubt that they are right about that. An overwhelming majority in Poland support EU membership, and the economic benefits enjoyed since it joined in 2004 are both unarguable and substantial. Even a conservative-nationalist government that specialises in grandstanding and confrontation would see taking the country back out as political suicide.
Provoking a serious, open-ended crisis of relations is another matter, however. The decision by the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, to challenge the compatibility of EU law with the country’s constitution has far-reaching implications. Mr Morawiecki asked Poland’s constitutional tribunal – which has been packed with pro-government judges – to make a ruling on the subject, having made it clear that he disputed Poland’s obligations under EU law. Last week, the tribunal’s judges duly found that on issues such as human rights and minorities, cooperation between member states, and the status of the European court of justice, the national constitution had primacy over the EU treaty that Poland signed up to in 2003. The ruling amounts to a brazen attack on the legal underpinnings of the EU’s common system of values. This is why France’s Europe minister, Clément Beaune, has said that Poland is running the risk of a “de facto exit” and others have judged that the Polish government is “playing with fire”.