After years of feuds between Brussels and Warsaw, the European Court of Justice in July ordered Poland to dismantle its new disciplinary system for judges.
The Law and Justice leader said in August that Poland could follow the order, at least partially, but has since backed down, leaving the government to pursue its case in the constitutional court, on the basis of arguments that the Polish constitution, not EU courts, should be the ultimate legal arbiter.
“In the hierarchy of sources of law, the Treaty on European Union is below the Constitution,” Bartlomiej Sochanski, a judge of the Constitutional Court, told the court, giving a summary of the decision.
The government has said it has no plans to quit the union, which has provided billions of dollars in funding and which, according to opinion polls, enjoys overwhelming public support.
“The Polish government wants to have its cake and eat it too,” said Anna Wojcik, a researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences specializing in the rule of law. âThey want to stay in the European Union, because that’s what 90% of Poles support, but at the same time, they want to break free from European rules on justice.
The European Commission has repeatedly stated that it will not accept this, while avoiding any statements that cast doubt on Poland’s future membership of a bloc that is still recovering from the shock of Brexit.
The contested disciplinary system of judges, Ms. Wojcik said, “touches on the fundamental issue of the right to effective judicial protection” and threatens the “European legal order”.