Angela Merkel urged the European Union not to get bogged down in rule of law disputes at the European Court as she and other leaders sought to ease tensions with Poland over the independence of the judiciary.
The German chancellor said member states need to find ways to “meet again,” as she arrived in Brussels on Thursday for an EU summit where leaders plan to discuss how the bloc will respond to Polish threats to judicial independence and the EU’s primacy. Law.
EU member states differ on how they should face a ruling by the Polish Constitutional Court that key parts of EU law are inconsistent with the Polish constitution – a ruling that is a direct challenge to the union’s legal system.
The row, after five years of backsliding between Warsaw and Brussels, over challenges to judicial independence by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, has raised questions about Poland’s future in the European Union.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday laid out three tools that Brussels could use to punish Warsaw, including a legal challenge, a mechanism that could reduce EU funding for Poland, and a sanctions process that could strip the country of its EU voting rights.
But Merkel has taken a cautious stance on the dispute. ‘A series of legal disputes before [European Court of Justice] She said ahead of the summit in Brussels that will also cover the EU’s energy and migration crisis.
The chancellor said the Poland issue was a symptom of a broader problem of how member states view the EU and how much sovereignty they would like to hand over. “This is certainly not just an issue between Poland and the European Union, it is also being discussed in other member states,” she said.
A number of other leaders echoed her conciliatory tone. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that while Poland needed to recognize the commission’s role as custodian of EU treaties, he was looking for a “constructive way to find a solution” to a very complex situation.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said the EU needs to be “resolute” on rule of law principles, but also “we need to engage in dialogue so that we can achieve positive results”.
The EU is by no means united on what to do about Poland, and there are also concerns about respect for basic EU principles in a number of member states, including Hungary and Slovenia. Questions about the priority of EU law have been raised in a number of other countries, including Germany, where the Constitutional Court ruled last year that the European Court of Justice had acted beyond its powers in a case involving bond purchases by the European Central Bank.
But Poland is the only country where the head of its government has asked the Constitutional Court about the primacy of EU law.
The leaders of Belgium, the Netherlands and many Nordic countries have called for tough action against Poland, arguing that the rule of EU law is central to the functioning of the internal market.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has reiterated that Poland’s €36 billion request for post-pandemic EU funds should not be approved by the Commission until the issue of judicial independence is settled.
“Poland must take the financial threat seriously,” Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.
Ahead of what is expected to be a long evening of talks, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki held private meetings with Merkel, Sanchez and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Arriving at the summit, Morawiecki told reporters he was “ready for dialogue,” on a more conciliatory tone than he delivered in a hostile speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday.
But he repeated Warsaw’s argument that the EU institutions and the European Court of Justice had overstepped their authority and that Brussels had exaggerated the severity of the court’s latest ruling.
“We will not act under the pressure of blackmail,” he said. “We do not agree to constantly expand the range of competencies [of the EU]But of course we will talk about how to resolve the current differences through agreement and dialogue.”
“Poland . . . does not see any differences between us and other EU countries,” Morawiecki added. “We are as loyal to the rule of law as others are to the EU institutions.”
Additional reporting by Javier Espinosa in Brussels