All during the seemingly endless debate over Brexit, European leaders continued to warn the world of the dangers such a move could pose to the European Union. If Great Britain can leave, what’s to stop other countries from following them out the door? But when the dust finally settled and the Brits departed (mostly), it seemed as if the fever to split up the EU had faded a bit. But not entirely, as it turns out. There are renewed calls and warnings coming from Poland that they too might strike out on their own. And that would be a far more complicated and messy departure than the one by the UK. The issue currently stirring up trouble is a recent ruling by Poland’s highest court saying that Polish laws take precedent over laws passed by the EU, and the EU’s leaders aren’t happy about it at all. (Associated Press)
The European Union’s top official locked horns Tuesday with Poland’s prime minister, arguing that a recent ruling from the country’s constitutional court challenging the supremacy of EU laws is a threat to the bloc’s foundations and won’t be left unanswered.
Addressing EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she is deeply concerned by the ruling, which she said is “a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order” and undermines the protection of judicial independence.
“The rule of law is the glue that binds our union together,” von der Leyen said.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was locking horns with the European Commission President earlier this month, but he’s been sticking to the same line he’s taken in the past. Poland’s constitution is the highest law they recognize, but it’s not an issue because the country still abides by all existing EU treaties anyway.
He also brushed off suggestions that the recent court ruling could push his nation toward a “Polexit” situation. Or at least that’s what he’s saying for now. The country’s conservative government frequently takes issue with the liberal rulings coming out of the EU and tensions seem to be rising. The dispute with the EU has led multiple party leaders in Poland to suggest that leaving might be an option. And the language they’ve chosen to use isn’t exactly mild. Some of them have recently compared the EU to the Soviet Union and even the Nazis.
As the standoff over the judiciary has grown more tense, with the Commission threatening to withhold billions of euros in pandemic recovery funds to Poland over it, ruling party leaders have sometimes compared the EU to the Soviet Union, Poland’s occupying power during the Cold War.
Ryszard Terlecki, the party’s deputy leader, said last month that if things don’t go the way Poland likes, “we will have to search for drastic solutions.” Referring to Brexit, he also said: “The British showed that the dictatorship of the Brussels bureaucracy did not suit them and turned around and left.”
Marek Suski, another leading party member, said Poland “will fight the Brussels occupier” just as it fought the Nazi and Soviet occupiers in the past.
One of the biggest differences between Brexit and the situation with Poland is purely geographic. Great Britain doesn’t share a physical border with the European mainland aside from the Chunnel, which is fairly easy to monitor. Poland shares borders with Germany, Czechia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. Currently, Europeans are allowed to freely cross all of those boundaries, or at least they would be if there weren’t pandemic travel restrictions in place. And they expect to return to full travel access soon. But if Poland left the EU, all of those borders would have to be reestablished with security put in place. Immigration issues would certainly arise. The list of complications goes on.
But the reality is that Poland’s conservative politics and policies really aren’t a great match for the socialist environment that has steadily grown in Brussels. The same can be said about the governments of Hungary and Romania to different degrees, along with most of the former Eastern Bloc nations. Far more so than with what we saw happening with the UK, if Poland ever did decide to leave, I can easily imagine some of those like-minded nations beginning to consider a similar move and setting up their own union once again.