Polish court delays ruling on primacy of EU law for the fourth time

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on Thursday delayed for a fourth time a ruling on whether the country’s constitution or European Union treaties take precedence, with critics saying Warsaw may be stalling to try to put pressure on Brussels.

The Tribunal started hearing the case in July but had already adjourned it three times before the Thursday sitting. The Tribunal head, Julia Przylebska, said the sitting will be adjourned until Oct. 7.

Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government is involved in a series of disputes with the EU on issues ranging from courts and media freedom to LGBT rights.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki brought the case in March as part of a conflict over changes it made to the country’s judicial system. The EU has accused the government of politicising courts, including the Constitutional Tribunal.

European Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has said the court challenge is holding up 57 billion euros ($48 billion) in EU pandemic recovery aid to Warsaw.

Most EU countries – but not Poland or Hungary – have already won approval from the bloc for their plans, unlocking access to funds to help restart growth.

Some critics say delaying the Tribunal verdict is an attempt to put pressure on Brussels to accept Poland’s plan.

“I think this is an element of pressure on the European Commission, on EU partners, a sort of threat which is supposed to hang over this until the EU backs down,” said Jan Grabiec, spokesman for the biggest opposition party Civil Platform.

PiS says Brussels has no right to interfere with member states’ judicial systems and argues the reforms were needed to remove communist-era influence in the judiciary. It denies having any influence over court decisions.

The primacy of European laws over national ones is a key tenet of European integration. Polish opposition politicians say challenging it not only jeopardises the country’s long-term future in the EU, but also the stability of the bloc itself.

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