The Polish prime minister has accused the European Union of “blackmail” in the face of an ongoing legal dispute, further escalating tensions between Poland and the rest of the bloc.
Speaking in the EU assembly on Tuesday, Mateusz Morawiecki, of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), claimed his country was “being attacked” by other member states.
His comments came after Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said the bloc would consider taking action against Poland, after a court there ruled that its own constitution trumped some parts of EU law.
The decision, made by PiS loyalists in response to a case brought by Mr Morawiecki, could be used by Warsaw to justify ignoring instructions from the European Court of Justice, which has sought to protect the independence of the Polish judiciary against government interference.
“This ruling calls into question the foundations of the European Union. It is a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order,” Ms von der Leyen said.
“We cannot and we will not allow our common values to be put at risk. The commission will act,” she added.
In response to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s judgment, the EU could launch a legal challenge against Poland or withhold money, including the €23.9bn in grants it is due to receive under the bloc’s Covid-19 recovery fund.
An even more drastic move would be for the commission to trigger Article 7 of the EU’s treaties, which could suspend Poland’s rights as a member of the bloc.
In response to these suggestions, the Polish prime minister called it “unacceptable to talk about financial penalties”.
“Blackmail must not be a method of policy,” Mr Morawiecki said.
The nationalist Polish government has used increasingly anti-EU rhetoric in recent months, with Marek Suski, a leading PiS member, saying Poland “will fight the Brussels occupier”.
This has led to growing speculation about “Polexit”, the possibility that Poland might become the second country to leave the EU.
However, the likelihood of this happening is low, given that support for the EU is particularly high among the Polish electorate.
In response to Poland’s war of words against Brussels this month, tens of thousands of Polish people have taken to the street to voice their support for their country’s EU membership.
Additional reporting by agencies