Thousands expected at pro-EU rallies in Poland

WARSAW (AFP) – Thousands of Poles are expected to rally on Sunday (Oct 10) in defence of their country’s European Union membership, after Poland’s top court last week issued a landmark ruling against the primacy of EU law.

The pro-EU demonstrations have been called by former EU chief Donald Tusk, now leader of the country’s main opposition grouping Civic Platform, who has warned of the prospect of a “Polexit”.

Mr Tusk asked people to “defend a European Poland” after a wave of criticism against the ruling both in Poland and from around the EU.

“We have to save Poland, no one will do it for us,” he said on Twitter.

The demonstrations are set to start at 1600 GMT.

After the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, Poland joined the EU in 2004, along with several countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

EU membership remains very popular, according to opinion polls, but relations between Warsaw and Brussels have become strained since the populist Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015.

The main bone of contention is a wide-ranging reform of the judiciary wanted by the PiS, which the EU fears will undermine judicial independence and roll back democratic freedoms.

The latest twist in the long-running dispute was the ruling on Thursday from Poland’s Constitutional Court, a body which government opponents say is stacked with PiS allies and therefore illegitimate.

The ruling challenged the primacy of EU law over Polish law in all cases by declaring key articles in the EU treaties “incompatible” with the Polish constitution.

The court also warned EU institutions not to “act beyond the scope of their competences” by interfering with Poland’s judicial reforms.

‘Legal Polexit’

Brussels had warned ahead of the court judgment that the case could have “consequences” for EU pandemic recovery grants and cheap loans for Poland.

Analysts have called the ruling a “legal Polexit”, saying it could pave the way for Poland one day leaving the EU.

The government has ruled out the prospect, however.

A day after the ruling, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the process of Poland joining the EU in 2004 was “one of the highlights of the last decades” for both Poland and the EU.

“Poland’s place is and will be in the European family of nations,” he wrote on Facebook.

He said the principle of the superiority of constitutional law over EU law had already been stated by courts in other EU member states.

“We have the same rights as other countries. We want these rights to be respected. We are not an uninvited guest in the European Union. And that’s why we don’t agree to be treated as a second-class country,” Mr Morawiecki wrote.

The government has to make a decision to officially publish the ruling for it to have legal force.

Experts have said it may move cautiously in order not to imperil EU funding and to avoid potential legal confusion as Polish courts could choose whether to apply Polish or EU law.

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