Stop ‘Polexit’! — Emotions Run High at Mass Pro-EU Rallies Across Poland

Written by | Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Emotions ran high at pro-EU rallies in Poland on Sunday (10 October) in the wake of a landmark, anti-EU verdict by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal. The country’s highest court had ruled three days earlier that parts of EU law are incompatible with the country’s constitution, undermining the legal pillar on which the 27-nation bloc stands. In response, about 100,000 people rallied, waved EU and Polish flags, at an event in Warsaw’s old town, where Donald Tusk, a former centre-right Prime Minister of Poland and President of the European Council, spoke to the crowd. They gathered in support of European Union membership after the controversial court ruling raised concerns the country could eventually leave the bloc. Protest organizers said demonstrations took place in more than 100 towns and cities across Poland, and several cities abroad.
These developments are widely seen as the latest flashpoint in years of tension between Brussels and Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party since it came to power in 2015. At the largest demonstration in the capital, Warsaw, crowds shouted “We are staying”, as Donald Tusk, the Polish former head of the European Council and now leader of the main opposition party Civic Platform, said PiS policies were jeopardizing Poland’s future in the EU.“We know why they want to leave [the EU] … so that they can violate democratic rules with impunity,” Tusk said. Police in Warsaw said on Monday (11 October) that four people were detained during the protest, including Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s nephew who is a government critic and an LGBT rights activist. 18-year-old Franek Broda alleged that a police officer kicked him in the head while he was on the ground being detained.
A Euro barometer survey in June and July showed that nearly twice as many Poles trust the EU as trust their national government. Poland’s populist government has been increasingly at odds with Brussels over issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to judicial independence. To that end, protesters warned the United Kingdom’s surprise 2016 decision to quit the bloc — the Brexit — could be mirrored in Poland with Warsaw and Brussels now on a full collision course. Politicians across Europe voiced dismay over the ruling by the Poland’s highest court, which Morawiecki welcomed, saying each member state must be treated with respect. Morawiecki had asked the Constitutional Tribunal whether EU institutions could stop Poland from reorganizing its judiciary, which is in direct response to the March ruling by the European Court of Justice’s that the country’s new regulations for appointing Supreme Court justices could violate EU law and ordered Warsaw to suspend them.
Meanwhile, the Polish government has sought to dampen the impact of last week’s bombshell court ruling, asserting the supremacy of the national constitution over EU law. Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau tweeted on Monday that “the Polish Constitutional Court has confirmed that EU law has primacy over national law only in areas of delegated competence”. Also Poland’s PM Morawiecki denied that his government wants to do a “Polexit,” as he took to social media to describe such claims as completely untrue, “fake news” and a “harmful myth”.

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