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POLAND: Ziobro asks Tribunal on applicability of EU law

Justice Minister and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro has directed a key question regarding the EU treaty to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal. Amid the ruling PiS party’s conflict with Brussels over the rule of law, Ziobro asked the Tribunal whether Polish judges can ask the Court of Justice of the European Union for preliminary rulings on interpretation of EU law. Commentators and the opposition argue that, effectively, Poland has officially questioned the supremacy of EU law. The opposition has also accused PiS of taking the first step for Poland’s withdrawal from the Union. This has been denied fervently by the ruling party’s leader Jarosław Kaczyński who said that the query has “nothing to do with any ‘Polexit’ (…) we’ve always been pro-European in the sense of supporting Polish EU membership”.

The move seems to have at least three motivations. Firstly, a Tribunal ruling could be the first step for Warsaw to have arguments against the looming EU verdict on its Supreme Court reforms. Secondly, it could be a way to formally argue against judges from common courts which have directed queries to the Luxembourg court. Finally, at the last stretch of campaigning before Sunday’s local election, PiS may hope to motivate Eurosceptic parts of their electorate. Still, if the Tribunal rules unequivocally that EU law holds no supremacy over the Polish Constitution in key matters, the legal crisis that ensues may spiral out of control. It is more likely that the Tribunal offers a mixed response that will provide PiS with more ammunition in the debate with Brussels, but not undermine the bloc’s treaty.