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EU lays out options to punish Poland’s challenge to bloc law

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The European Commission laid out its options ranging from legal action to withholding funds for a response to a Polish court ruling that questioned the supremacy of EU law, stressing that action must be taken to protect the bloc’s common values, according to Reuters. 

“The European Commission is at the moment, carefully assessing this judgment,” the European Union’s executive president, Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday.

“But I can already tell you: I am deeply concerned,” she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg ahead of a speech to the assembly by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Morawiecki escalated a rule-of-law dispute with the European Union, accusing the bloc of overstepping its authority. 

“I reject the language of threats, warnings and coercion,” Morawiecki said on Tuesday. “I won’t agree to politicians trying to blackmail and threaten Poland so that the blackmail becomes the way of conducting politics against any member states.”

Von der Leyen stated that a first option is so-called infringements, where the European Commission legally challenges the judgment by the Polish Constitutional Court.

The second option is a conditionality mechanism and other financial tools whereby funds from the EU’s budget and its post-pandemic recovery fund would be withheld from Poland.

Von der Leyen added that the third option is the application of Article 7 of the EU’s treaties under which rights of member states – including the right to vote on EU decisions – can be suspended because they have breached core values of the bloc.

“The Polish Constitutional Court that today has cast doubts on the validity of our Treaty is the same court that under Article 7 we consider not to be independent and legitimate,” she said. “This comes in many ways full circle.”

Whether Morawiecki’s succeeds in placating Brussels is key to Poland’s bid to ensure that it continues receiving the bloc’s financial support. The commission may trigger a new tool as soon as this week, which allows it to withhold budget payments to member states that fail to adhere to the bloc’s democratic standards, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told Bloomberg last week.