Case concerning primacy of constitution over EU law adjourned

The Constitutional Court (TK) adjourned in a case concerning the primacy of Poland’s constitution over EU law after hearing sides to the dispute on Tuesday.

Top court examines PM’s motion over national law precedence

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TK will resume the session at 1 pm CEST on Thursday.

A potential ruling in favour of PM Mateusz Morawiecki’s argument that Poland’s constitution takes precedence over EU law could put an additional strain on the already tense relations between Warsaw and Brussels.

On Tuesday, the court heard arguments for the Polish constitution’s primacy from the country’s presidential officials, the Lower House and prosecutor general, with an opposing voice from the outgoing ombudsman, Adam Bodnar.

Mr Bodnar said the case was “playing with fire” and could lead to Poland “leaving the EU”.

Polish constitution prevails over EU law: PM

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Constitution over EU laws?

In late March, PM Morawiecki asked TK to check if three points of the Treaty on the European Union were compatible with the Polish constitution. In one of the points, Mr Morawiecki raised doubts as to whether EU law had primacy over Poland’s supreme law.

Mr Morawiecki said that the motion had been filed with the Constitutional Court “in order to once again and additionally confirm the supremacy of the Polish constitution, which is the highest legal act in the Polish legal system and is above EU law.”

“Every time, TK ruled that if there is a collision of legal regulations, they either must be changed or the constitution must be changed if they are not. And this is the logic of EU membership,” he said.

Mr Morawiecki added that this has also been understood by constitutional tribunals of other member countries, even though "they are not a very significant reference point for us."

“What is most important for us is the opinion of the Constitutional Court,” PM Morawiecki said, explaining that he had decided to ask the top court “since there is a possibility of a potential collision.”

The European Commission voiced its concern about the motion as it called into question the fundamental principles of EU law, and in particular the primacy of EU law, according to the EU’s justice commissioner’s spokesperson, Christian Wigand.

Mr Wigand explained that all rulings by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) were binding for the authorities of member states, including national courts.

The European Commission accuses Poland of politicising the justice system because the top judicial self-governing body, the National Judiciary Council (KRS), is now dominated by ruling party politicians. Poland has also introduced the Disciplinary Chamber active at the Supreme Court. The Chamber, which can strip judges of immunity, is not recognised by the CJEU.

The EC first raised concerns about the Polish government’s court reforms in early 2016, just months after Law and Justice came into power.

The CJEU thus partially suspended the work of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which until the final decision does not deal with the cases of judges but is examining the issues of other legal professions.