POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - EUROPE

Rule of law

Von der Leyen considering “nuclear option” for Polish problem



Ursula von der Leyen addressing the European Parliament’s plenary debate on the rule of law crisis in Poland on Tuesday said it was “a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order.”  European Union 2021

Ursula von der Leyen addressing the European Parliament’s plenary debate on the rule of law crisis in Poland on Tuesday said it was “a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order.”  European Union 2021

The European Commission president has said she is “deeply concerned” by the recent ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court and that triggering Article 7 remained an option.

Ursula von der Leyen has warned of the serious consequences for Polish citizens following the ruling earlier this month by Poland’s Constitutional Court that Polish law can take precedence over EU law. “Polish people must be able to rely on fair and equal treatment in the judicial system, just like any other European citizen,” she said,

Von der Leyen was addressing the European Parliament’s plenary debate on the rule of law crisis in Poland and the primacy of EU law. “I am deeply concerned,” she said. “This ruling calls into question the foundations of the European Union. It is a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order.” 

Recalling Poland being placed under martial law by its Communist regime in December 1981, when several members of protest union Solidarność were jailed, the commission president said that the rule of law was the glue that binds the Union together. It is “essential for the protection of the values, on which our Union is founded: democracy, freedom, equality and respect for human rights,” she continued.

The Polish government has to explain to us how it intends to protect European money
Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der LeyenPresidentEuropean Commission

Von der Leyen told the parliament that the commission was looking at various options in response to the ruling. These could include a legal challenge to the judgement by the Polish Constitutional Court, or the implementation of the conditionality mechanism and other financial tools. “The Polish government has to explain to us how it intends to protect European money, given this ruling…” she explained. “Because in the coming years, we will be investing €2.100 billion with the Multiannual Budget and the NextGenerationEU recovery programme. This is European taxpayers' money. And if our Union is investing more than ever to advance our collective recovery, we must protect the Union's budget against breaches of the rule of law.”

A third option would be the Article 7 procedure, von der Leyen said. “This is the powerful tool in the Treaty. And we must come back to it.” Article 7 allows the EU to suspend certain voting rights from a member state and has been called, according to Politico, the EU’s “nuclear option”.

Von der Leyen said she deeply regrets the situation. «I have always been a proponent of dialogue and I will always be. This is a situation that can and must be resolved. And we want a strong Poland in a united Europe.”