European Union Vertex in Brussels: Poland at the Center of the Debate

Yoselina Guevara

On October 21, the summit of the European Union (EU) member states opened in Brussels, with Poland at the center of the debate and its challenge to the primacy of national law over community law, the latter being understood as the laws governing the European community. In turn, the discussion was strongly influenced by the crisis between Poland and Belarus over the migration issue. Tensions between the two bordering countries have been evidenced by Warsaw’s deployment of six thousand soldiers along the 418 km border, in addition to the creation of a three km wide security zone to try to contain the influx of immigrants, which this month has exceeded three thousand people. Likewise, together with 11 other Eastern states, it has asked for the construction of barriers with EU money to curb migration; for its part, the German government has proposed the creation of joint patrols on the border with Belarus. For Berlin, the issue is of utmost importance given the geopolitical location. Between Brandenburg and the Bug River there is only plain; neither the Balkans, the Pyrenees, nor the Alps. So, if we are talking about defense, Germany’s protection effectively begins at the border with Belarus. Among other things because that is NATO’s eastern flank, the border with the Russian sphere of influence. Berlin cannot allow it to get out of control. Just as it cannot harass Poland for refusing to submit to EU legislation, whose absolutism the Germans also fight. It is not in Germany’s interest to turn the European bloc into a superstate, but to prevent it from unraveling, along with the influence it guarantees them.

After Brexit, Polexit?

Some analysts speak of the possibility of a Polexit analogous to Brexit. In 2016 the British people voted to leave the Union , a decision that has now become effective after countless vicissitudes. In Poland the scenario is different, the government does not want to leave the EU at all, and if a referendum were to be held all polls indicate that the majority of Poles would not choose Polexit.

The Polish government, on the contrary, wants to change the Union from within; the decision adopted on October 7 by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, the origin of the current crisis, does not expel the country from the EU, but rather distances it from the Community spirit and rules, without forcing an exit process. This is a major difference with respect to the UK referendum. However, the solution to the crisis is hard to find.

The crisis triggered by the Polish court’s decision is twofold: on the one hand, it is related to attacks on the independence of the judiciary in Poland, which is already at the center of a dispute with Brussels; and on the other hand, it stems from the judgment denying the priority of European law over national law. Poland is thus attacking a cardinal principle of European integration and, above all, of the single market, which cannot function if the rules are not the same in all countries. Other similar courts, such as the German court, have issued contradictory rulings on the subject, but none has dared to do so like the Polish court. This explains the hostile reactions of the Heads of State and Government, who on October 21 in Brussels were intransigent about a pillar of the European Union based on law that would not exist if everyone went their own way.

Dialogue” first and foremost

So far what has been observed at the EU summit is support for dialogue, which seems to indicate that the settlement of disagreements will be achieved through negotiation rather than resorting to infringement proceedings, financial sanctions or the application of Article 7 of the EU Treaty, provided for countries where there is a risk of serious violations of European values, which could be issued against Poland but for now does not seem to be on the table . Warsaw needs this conflict to cease in order to cash the 57 billion euro check from the European fund recovery plan; the correlation of forces, this time, does not seem favorable for Poland to achieve changes in the EU.

Yoselina Guevara Correo del Alba’s Venezuelan Correspondent in Italy