Tens of thousands of Poles gathered on Sunday to defend their country’s EU membership, after Poland’s highest court last week issued a landmark ruling against the rule of EU law.
The pro-EU protests were called by former EU leader Donald Tusk, now leader of the country’s main opposition group, Civic Platform, who warned of the prospect of a “Polexit” .
“Tens of thousands of people in Warsaw and in more than 100 towns and villages in Poland have come to protest against what this government is doing to our homeland,” Tusk told a massive crowd in the capital flooded with blue starry flags of the ‘EU.
Tusk called on people to “defend a European Poland” after a wave of criticism of the decision both within the country and across the European Union.
Membership in the bloc remains very popular according to opinion polls, but relations between Warsaw and Brussels have been strained since the populist Law and Justice (PiS) came to power in 2015.
The main bone of contention is a far-reaching reform of the judicial system wanted by the PiS, which the European Union fears will undermine the independence of the judiciary and undermine democratic freedoms.
The latest twist in the long-running dispute was the ruling on Thursday by the Polish Constitutional Court, a body which government opponents say is stacked with PiS allies and therefore illegitimate.
The ruling challenged the primacy of EU law over Polish law in all cases by declaring key articles of EU treaties “incompatible” with the Polish constitution.
The court also warned the European institutions not to “go beyond their competence” by interfering with Poland’s judicial reforms.
“I am here because I am afraid that we are leaving the EU. It is very important, especially for my granddaughter,” Elzbieta Morawska, 64, from Warsaw, told AFP.
“Britain has just left the EU and it’s a tragedy, if Poland leaves now it will be a tragedy too,” Aleksander Winiarski, 20, a Polish student in England, told AFP. of the Warsaw rally.
“This government has crossed all borders, it is a mafia state,” Beata, 40, director of a media company in Warsaw, told AFP, who refused to reveal her last name.
Protesters lit up a central square with their cell phones, sang the national anthem and chanted âWe’re staying!
– ‘Legal Polexit’ –
Brussels warned ahead of the court ruling that the case could have “consequences” for EU pandemic recovery grants and cheap loans for Poland.
Analysts called the move “legal Polexit”, saying it could pave the way for Poland’s exit from the European Union.
The government has ruled out this prospect, however.
A day after the decision, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Poland’s accession process to the EU in 2004 was “one of the highlights of the past decades” for both Poland and the EU.
“Poland’s place is and will be in the European family of nations,” he wrote on Facebook.
He said the principle of the superiority of constitutional law over EU law had already been enunciated by courts in other EU member states.
“We have the same rights as other countries. We want these rights to be respected. We are not an uninvited guest in the European Union. And that is why we do not accept to be treated as a country. second-class, âMorawiecki wrote. .
Experts said he could act with caution so as not to jeopardize EU funding and avoid potential legal confusion, as Polish courts could choose to apply Polish or EU law.
Â© 2021 AFP