Why some fear a ‘Polexit’ of the European Union

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland will be the center of European attention this week, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki addressing the European Parliament and leaders at an expected European Union summit a legal conundrum created by a recent decision of the Polish Constitutional Court.

Some opponents of the Polish nationalist government fear that the court ruling has put the country on the path to a possible ‘Polexit’ or a departure from the EU27, as Britain has done with it. Brexit. The government denounces those who propagate the idea, which it describes as “fake news”. Here’s a look at the divergent views on the issue – and why Poland’s departure from the bloc is unlikely.


THE STORY

The Polish government, led by the conservative Law and Justice party, has been in conflict with EU officials in Brussels since taking office in 2015. Much of the dispute revolves around changes to the Polish justice system that give the ruling party more power over the courts. Polish authorities say they are seeking to reform a corrupt and inefficient justice system. The European Commission believes that the changes are eroding the country’s democratic system of checks and balances.

ANTI-EU RHETORIC EMERGING FROM POLAND

As the standoff over the justice system has grown more tense, with the Commission threatening to withhold billions of euros in pandemic stimulus funds from Poland, leaders of ruling parties have sometimes compared the EU to the Soviet Union, the occupying power of Poland during the Cold War.

Ryszard Terlecki, deputy party leader, said last month that if things do not go the way Poland wants “we will have to look for drastic solutions”. Referring to Brexit, he also said: “The British have shown that the dictatorship of the Brussels bureaucracy does not suit them and turned around and left. “

Marek Suski, another leading member of the party, said that Poland “will fight the occupier of Brussels” just as it fought the Nazi and Soviet occupiers in the past. “Brussels sends us overlords who are supposed to bring Poland back to order, bring us to our knees, so that we are a German state, and not a proud state of free Poles,” he said.

A KEY LAW DECISION

This month, Poland’s constitutional court challenged the idea that EU law replaces the laws of its 27 member countries with a ruling saying certain EU laws are incompatible with the country’s constitution.

This decision – taken by a court dominated by ruling party loyalists – gives the Polish government the justification that it sought to ignore directives from the Court of Justice of the European Union that it does not like – in particularly on questions of judicial independence.

The ruling marks another major test for the EU after years of dealing with its messy divorce from the UK

WHAT IS THE POLISH GOVERNMENT SAYING?

Polish leaders say it is absurd to think they want to leave the EU and accuse the opposition of playing with the idea of ​​”Polexit” for political ends.

Morawiecki, the Prime Minister, said last week that the opposition “is trying to imply that we want to weaken Poland and the European Union by leaving the EU. It’s obviously not just fake news, it’s even worse. It is simply a lie that is made to weaken the EU.

Morawiecki spoke shortly after Poland’s main opposition leader Donald Tusk, a former EU leader, staged nationwide mass protests expressing support for Poland’s retention in the EU.

COULD AN EXPULSION OCCUR FOR POLAND?

The EU has no legal mechanism to expel a member. This means that for Polexit to happen, it would have to be triggered by Warsaw. For now, the idea seems far-fetched, as Poland’s EU membership is hugely popular, with surveys showing more than 80% of Poles are in favor of bloc membership.

When Poland entered the EU in 2004, Poles were granted new freedoms to travel and work across the EU and a dramatic economic transformation was triggered that benefited millions of people.

Yet some Poles still fear this will change. They fear that if new EU funds are denied to Poland due to rule of law disputes, the Poles could eventually end up believing that it is no longer in their best interests to belong to the bloc.

Some simply fear a political crash like what happened with Britain’s departure from the EU. Former British Prime Minister who called for a referendum on EU membership, David Cameron, had sought to keep the country in the bloc. He called for a vote to settle the issue, believing the British would vote to stay. A majority in 2016 did not, and Cameron quickly resigned.


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