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Poland is firing from all cylinders in its power struggle with the EU

Poland, which is affected by an infringement procedure launched by the European Commission on Tuesday, is fighting back. Warsaw is launching an investigation into abuse of office against the judges of the ECJ.

Convictions by the ECJ

The tone between the EU and Poland has continued to intensify since Polish constitutional judges in October ruled that several articles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union were incompatible with the Polish Constitution and refused to implement decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ). Brussels is in a long and intense tug-of-war with Warsaw over judicial reforms initiated by Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has been in power since 2015. These reforms, which are accused of undermining the independence of judges, have brought Poland several convictions by the ECJ.

“Bureaucratic centralism” in Brussels

On Tuesday, the European Commission opened infringement proceedings against Poland, believing that its Constitutional Court has openly challenged the primacy of European law. Poland, for its part, does not want to accept this without protest and is also conducting a large number of legal proceedings against the EU institutions. His Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also reacted to the new procedure and criticized the “bureaucratic centralism” in Brussels on Wednesday.

Above all, however, the Warsaw prosecutors opportunistically benefited from a lengthy investigation by Libération, which at the beginning of December revealed the existence of a “true system of conflicts of interest and influence that extends its ramifications not only into the Commission, but also into the ECJ, the temple of European law”. Jean Quatremer’s revelations, according to the article, “essentially concerned members of the EPP (European People’s Party), the parent party of European conservative parties.” The journalist described the existence of an “EPP state that has established itself in the heart of the European Union for the greatest benefit of its members”.

In detail, Libération reveals the close friendship between Karel Pinxten, Belgian member of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) between 2006 and 2018 and condemned by the ECJ on 30 September for misappropriation of public funds, and the Dutch-speaking Belgian Koen Lenaerts, President of the ECJ, who is said to have participated in numerous dinners or parties at Pinxten’s at the expense of the European taxpayer. The newspaper also describes a large network of friends around the two men, consisting mainly of members of the EPP.

Tusk sees Poland “drifting towards Polexit”

The leader of the EPP is none other than Donald Tusk, who was President of the European Council from 2014 to 2019 and since 3 July 2021 has also been Chairman of the Civic Platform (PO), the main opposition party of poland’s ruling PiS. In October, Donald Tusk was decisively upset about the decision of the Polish constitutional judges, saying that it “drives the country towards a Polexit”. Last Sunday, he took to the streets with other opponents of those in power to demand the abandonment of a new media law.

Therefore, the article in Libérarion in Warsaw was read with interest. The revelations were made by the Polish Ministry of Justice as evidence that the EU institutions that criticize Warsaw for violating the rule of law are themselves circumventing or breaking the same rules that they supposedly want member states to enforce voluntarily or forcibly. “The credibility of the ECJ and the European Commission has been undermined by these revelations,” said Polish Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta.

Polish prosecutors open investigation

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro wrote to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week, warning her that the claims contained in the article, if true, would “undermine the functioning of the EU.” He called on them to end their “silence” and urgently “clarify” the case. Zbigniew Ziobro called on prosecutors in Warsaw in the same breath to open an investigation into a possible “abuse of power by ECJ judges in the examination of complaints against Poland”.

After corruption scandal: Demand for suspension of the ECJ’s activities

The news site wPolityce (which is close to Poland’s ruling Law and Justice PiS party) also reports that the KRS, which is responsible for appointing judges in Poland, is preparing a resolution calling for the ECJ’s activities to be suspended after “the European media exposed the corruption scandal involving ECJ judges and officials.”

106 billion euros are at stake

The Polish Justice Minister also appealed to the Constitutional Court on Thursday to decide on the EU mechanism, which makes the allocation of funds conditional on compliance with the rule of law. Poland, like Hungary, has already referred this issue to the European Court of Justice in order to have this mechanism annulled. The EU Court of Justice is expected to rule on this at the beginning of 2022. Considerable sums are at stake for Poland: EUR 75 billion over seven years for the Cohesion Fund and EUR 31 billion over seven years for financing under the Common Agricultural Policy.

“Fourth German Reich”

Finally, in an interview published on Friday, December 24, Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski denounced German influence on the European institutions and accused Germany of trying to turn the European Union into a federalist “Fourth German Reich.” Thus, even the Christmas truce has not yet been able to overcome the open confrontation between Warsaw and Brussels, which has been intensified by the legal and verbal escalation in Poland.

By UME/Le Figaro

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