Pro-EU protests staged in Polish cities

Poles gathered in cities across the country on Sunday to show support for the European Union after the nation’s constitutional court ruled last week that the Polish constitution overrides some EU laws.

Donald Tusk, the opposition leader in Poland and a former president of the European Council, called for the protest, casting it as an effort to defend the country’s continued membership in the 27-nation EU. “We have to save Poland, no one will do it for us,” Mr Tusk said.

Broadcaster TVN24 showed crowds gathering in Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan and other cities with EU and Polish flags. In Warsaw, whose mayor hails from Mr Tusk’s Civic Platform party, EU and Polish flags hung from lampposts and city buses ahead of the evening rally.

Critics of the right-wing nationalist government fear the court ruling could lead to an eventual “Polexit”, or Poland being forced to leave the EU over an impression that it is rejecting the bloc’s laws and values.

Economic transformation

The government of prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki denies it is seeking to leave the bloc, although top members of the ruling party have recently used language suggesting this might be their aim. EU membership, however, is extremely popular in Poland, having brought new freedom to travel and a dramatic economic transformation to the central European nation, which had endured decades of communist rule until 1989.

The court ruling, issued on Thursday by a court loyal to the nationalist government, marks a dramatic challenge to the primacy of EU law. In a legal decision requested by the prime minister, the tribunal held the Polish constitution has primacy over EU laws in some cases. Mr Morawiecki asked for the review after the European Court of Justice ruled in March that the country’s new regulations for appointing supreme court justices could violate EU law and ordered the right-wing government to suspend them.

Existential crisis

Poland will continue to respect EU law, its foreign ministry insisted on Saturday, after the country’s constitutional tribunal ruling.

The ruling plunged the European Union into an existential crisis on Friday. France and Germany said in a joint statement that Poland had a legal and moral obligation to abide by the bloc’s rules, completely and unconditionally.

Poland’s foreign ministry said the country respected binding international law. “All obligations arising from both primary and secondary European Union law remain in force and thus, will be continue to be fully respected by Poland,” it said in a statement.

“The provisions of the Treaty of the European Union indicated in the judgment . . . remain in force. What cannot be accepted are only the forms of their interpretation or application that violate the constitution.” – Reuters and AP

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