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Von der Leyen and Poland's Morawiecki clash at Strasbourg over ‘direct challenge to EU unity’

EUROPEAN Commission president Ursula von der Leyen accused Poland of “a direct challenge to the unity of the EU” today following a clash over legal precedence.

At a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended a ruling from its constitutional court that the Polish constitution takes precedence over EU legislation within the country.

The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) has long maintained that EU law takes priority over the national laws of member states when these are in conflict.

The issue has become contentious in Poland because of an ECJ ruling in March that Polish judicial reforms, which critics say give the government greater power over the courts, violate EU law and should be dropped. 

Poland has refused to comply with that ruling and the escalating row has seen Brussels threaten to cut off access to EU funds earmarked to help countries recover from the Covid pandemic. 

Mr Morawiecki told MEPs that Warsaw had not broken any EU treaty terms and condemned “lies about Poland leaving the EU.”

But these rumours have been fed by the deputy leader of his own hard-right Law and Justice party Ryszard Terlecki, who said last month that Poland would need “drastic solutions” if the EU continued to try to change its laws, citing Brexit as an example the EU should be wary of.

Fellow Law and Justice MP Marek Suski said the EU was sending “overlords who are supposed to put us on our knees, so that we might be a German state, and not a proud state of free Poles.”

Ms von der Leyen took an uncompromising tone in Strasbourg, saying: “We cannot and will not allow our common values to be put at risk. The commission will act.”

But the bloc could face a showdown with right-wing nationalists on the rise in multiple member states.

Mr Morawiecki joined Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italian Lega leader Matteo Salvini earlier this year to announce the formation of a new right-wing alliance committed to a “European renaissance,” and the three have since tried to co-ordinate far-right parties to form a single bloc in the European Parliament.

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