European Commission sues Poland after top court defies primacy of EU law

By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

The European Commission referred Poland to the European Court of Justice on Wednesday over two rulings from the country’s top constitutional court that held that EU law does not take precedence over the Polish constitution.

The referral follows a formal notice by the European Commission to launch infringement proceedings against the country served on Dec. 21, 2021.

The European Commission’s complaint relates to two rulings of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal on July 14, 2021, and Oct. 7, 2021, where it held that where contradictions exist between the EU treaties and the Polish constitution, the latter will prevail, a move the bloc says is incompatible with the primacy of EU legal principles.

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“The Constitutional Tribunal with these rulings breached the general principles of autonomy, primacy, effectiveness, uniform application of Union law and the binding effect of rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union,” read a press release issued by the Commission on Wednesday.

The bloc claimed Poland’s top constitutional court “no longer meets the requirements of an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law,” and referred to what it regards as “irregularities in the appointment procedures of three judges in December 2015 and in the selection of its president in December 2016.”

The Commission raised its concerns with Poland in a reasoned opinion issued in July last year and claims Poland’s response in September did not adequately address the Commission’s concerns.

Krystyna Pawłowicz, a justice on the Constitutional Tribunal, tweeted Article 190(1) of Poland’s constitution in response to the news on Wednesday, which reads: “Judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal are universally binding and are final.”

She added that the European court “is not the second instance for judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal of a sovereign Polish state.”

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“This unlawful harassment will not affect the jurisprudence of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. The judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal will remain unshakable and universally binding,” she added.

The European Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová insisted, “EU law must be equally applied across the Union,” to which Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Polish MEP for the governing PiS party, replied: “Cheeky commissioner, continuing unlawful harassment of Poland.”

“Everyone in the EU should enjoy the fundamental principles and the rights of the EU legal order, including the right to a court that is independent under EU law,” tweeted the EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.

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