EXPLAINER: Why some fear a ‘Polexit’ from European Union
WARSAW (AP) — This week’s focus will be on Poland. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will address the European Parliament. Leaders at a summit of European Union leaders are expected to confront a legal problem created by a recent ruling issued by Poland’s Constitution Court.
Opponents of the Polish nationalist government are concerned that the court’s decision has set the country on a path towards a possible “Polexit”, or a departure form the 27-nation EU, as Britain did with Brexit. The government denounces the spread of the idea and calls it “fake news.”
Poland’s government, which is led by the conservative Law and Justice party, has been in conflict with EU officials in Brussels since it took power in 2015. This dispute centers on changes in the Polish judicial system that give the ruling party greater power over the courts. According to the Polish authorities, they want to reform an inefficient and corrupt justice system. According to the European Commission, the changes would undermine the country’s democratic system that checks and balances.
ANTI EU RHETORIC EVIDENCES FROM POLAND As tensions over the judiciary have grown more intense, and the Commission threatening withholding billions of euro in pandemic recovery funding to Poland over it; ruling party leaders sometimes compared the EU with the Soviet Union, Poland’s occupying power during Cold War.
Ryszard Teleecki, deputy leader of the party, stated last month that if things do not go as planned, “we will need to look for drastic solutions.”
Marek Suski said that Poland would fight “the Brussels occupier” in much the same way it has fought the Nazis and Soviet occupiers. He stated that “Brussel sends us overlords to bring Poland into order, to make us kneel, so that we might become a German state and not a proud nation of free Poles.”
A STATEMENT ABOUT LAWS This month, Poland’s Constitution Court challenged the idea that EU law overrides the laws of its 27 members. It ruled that some EU laws were incompatible with Poland’s constitution. This decision, made by a court dominated in ruling party loyalists, gives the Polish government justification for trying to ignore directives from European Union’s Court of Justice it doesn’t like – especially on matters relating to judicial independence.
The decision marks another major test of the EU’s ability to manage its messy divorce from U.K .
WHAT DOES OUR POLISH GOVERNMENT SAY?
Polish leaders claim it’s absurd that they think they want to leave EU. They accuse the opposition, who they say is playing with the idea “Polexit” to gain political points.
Morawiecki was the prime minister and said last week that the opposition is trying to suggest that they want to weaken Poland, the European Union, and leave the EU. This is clearly fake news. It is worse. It is simply a lie made to weaken EU.”
Morawiecki spoke shortly after Donald Tusk (Polish’s opposition leader), organized nationwide protests in support of Poland staying within the EU.
COULD POLAND BE EXPOSED?
The EU does not have a legal mechanism to expel members. Polexit would need to be initiated by Warsaw in order to occur. The idea of Polexit seems unlikely at the moment because EU membership in Poland is highly popular. Surveys show that more than 80% Poles support being part of the bloc.
When Poland joined the EU in 2004, Poles gained new freedoms and worked across the EU, a massive economic transformation that has been a huge success for millions.
But some Poles fear that this could change. They fear that Poles could feel it is no longer in their interest to be part of the EU if they are unable to access EU funds for Poland due to rule-of-law disputes.
Some fear a political accident similar to what happened to Britain’s exit from the EU. David Cameron, the former British prime minister, called for a referendum about EU membership. He wanted the country to remain in the bloc. Cameron called for a vote to resolve the issue, believing that Britons would vote to remain. Cameron quickly resigned after 2016 a majority did not agree.