European Commission refers Poland to EU court over legal divergence News
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European Commission refers Poland to EU court over legal divergence

The European Commission Wednesday referred Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union for rulings by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that the Commission argues violate EU law. The Commission expressed deep concern about rulings that challenged the primacy of EU law in Poland, which they allege breach Article 19(1) TEU provisions that “ensure effective legal protection.”

The Commission clarified that its main concern was the rights of Polish citizens and ensuring the rule of law is respected throughout the EU. A statement explained:

The Commission’s objective is to ensure that the rights of Polish citizens are protected and that they can enjoy the benefits of the EU in the same way as all EU citizens. Primacy of EU law ensures equal application of EU law across the Union. The Constitutional Tribunal with these rulings breached the general principles of autonomy, primacy, effectiveness, uniform application of Union law and the binding effect of rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The rulings in question would allow Poland to ignore EU law in certain situations, challenging the fundamental structure of the EU itself, which binds its members with common policies. Experts have described the rulings as a “legal Polexit” that would allow Poland to effectively remove itself from EU policy obligations without formally leaving the bloc. The Commission also cited the numerous rule of law concerns from its 2022 Rule of Law Report and asserted that the Constitutional Tribunal “no longer meets the requirements of an independent and impartial tribunal.”

The referral is the third step in the European Commissions’s formal infringement procedure. The Commission previously sent Poland a formal notice of infringement and a reasoned opinion requesting compliance. Following this referral, the Commission may seek to impose penalties that pressure Poland into compliance.

This is just the latest confrontation between Poland and the European Commission, which has expressed concerns about the rule of law in Poland for years. In August 2022, the European Commission threatened to withhold recovery funds if Poland did not meet judicial independence requirements and they will likely seek similar penalties if the present issues are not resolved moving forward.