Poland’s prime minister accused the European Union of making Warsaw’s demands “with a gun to our head”, and urged Brussels to withdraw threats of legal and financial sanctions if it is to resolve the country’s rule of law crisis.
In a move to ease tensions in the long-running dispute, which has raised fears of Poland’s exit from the European Union, Mateusz Morawiecki has promised to dismantle the disciplinary chamber for judges that the European Court of Justice has found illegal by the end of the year.
But he warned that if the European Commission launched a “third world war” by withholding promised funds from Warsaw, he would “defend our rights with any weapons at our disposal.”
The Commission threatened Poland with sanctions after the country’s Supreme Court ruled this month that key elements of EU law contravene its constitution.
The ruling marks a significant escalation of the legal battle over changes to Poland’s court system that Morawiecki’s ruling Law and Justice party says are needed to increase efficiency. Brussels says it threatens the independence of the judiciary and the basic legal ties that bind the EU.
The standoff has already delayed approval of Poland’s €36 billion economic recovery package from Brussels. Some member states and parts of the Commission have also called for a new conditional mechanism that could threaten tens of billions of euros in annual EU money paid to Warsaw.
Morawiecki said any move to reduce “consolidation money” would be met with a strong response. He was speaking to the Financial Times after a week in which he held multiple meetings with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and participated in a two-day summit with fellow EU leaders that included a discussion on the Polish crisis.
“What would happen if the European Commission started World War III? Asked if Poland could veto crucial decisions on legislation such as the EU’s climate package, if they start World War III, we will defend our rights with any weapons at our disposal,” he said in response to a question about whether Poland could veto crucial decisions on legislation such as the EU’s climate package.
“[But] If someone attacks us in a completely unfair way, we will defend ourselves in any way we can.” “We feel that this is a really discriminatory approach and kind of a diktat. [from Brussels]. But if this is going to get worse, we will have to think through our strategy.”
Morawiecki said talks with EU leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and von der Leyen, in which he made Warsaw’s central argument that the EU is beyond its legal powers, were “extremely satisfactory”.
But he said that if the commission wanted to find a compromise, it should reverse its decision in September to seek daily fines against Warsaw until it implements a number of European Court of Justice rulings related to its judicial reform.
Fortunately this is a political process. Politicians can stop political processes. “That would be the wisest thing they could do. Because then we don’t talk to each other with a gun in our head. This particular situation creates a relative lack of our appetite for any further actions.”
However, Morawiecki said the legislation to dissolve the controversial disciplinary chamber is nearing completion.
“We are now in the process of finalizing the details of this legislation and collecting the majority for it,” he added. “Legislation is being prepared, and over the course of the coming weeks, I believe, until the end of the year at the latest, we will introduce that legislation and move forward with the action.”
Morawiecki also said the commission had violated EU law by not approving or rejecting the country’s Covid-19 recovery package, and said Warsaw was ready to wait for it to be cashed.
“We will get this money sooner or later,” he said. “The later we get it, the stronger the evidence that there is this kind of discriminatory treatment and diktat approach from the European Commission.”
Some member states demanded that the commission postpone the approval of the refund package, which was presented by Poland at the beginning of May, due to the confrontation with the rule of law. The committee is supposed to make its assessment within two months of its submission.
This money should have already been paid. “This is a breach of procedure by the commission,” Morawiecki said. They violate the rule of law.
“We will not give up and we will not give up our sovereignty because of this pressure,” he said, adding that Poland was already borrowing from private markets to fund its post-pandemic investment plans. “We will live until the moment we get [EU] Money.”
The committee declined to comment.
Morawiecki dismissed fears that the standoff would spark a public campaign that would see Poland – once the EU’s poster child for eastern expansion – leave the bloc.
Eighty-eight percent of Poles want to stay in the European Union, half of them are our country [party’s] voters. We are absolutely convinced that Poland should stay. . . There are no risks from Polexit. We will vigorously defend Poland as part of the European Union.”