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In Strasbourg, Poland attacks the EU but does not break

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BRUSSELS – In front of the MEPs gathered in Strasbourg, the verbal confrontation was total. To the limits of the insult. With the threat from the president of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen to activate all possible sanctions, starting with the blocking of funds. And the reply from the Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki who reminded her German interlocutor that Poland has already fought “against the Third Reich”. In short, harsh tones. Which responded to their respective needs – in particular that of the head of the Warsaw government – to keep the tension high and to show their public opinion that they had not given in. The quarrel, however, never precipitated towards a concrete consequence. The president of the Commission avoided him, the Polish premier shunned him. Too many interests at stake. A lot of money that the Eastern country receives from the Union. The stakes are high for Brussels, which does not want to reckon with an “Exit” after Brexit. And so the threat of economic sanctions remains a hypothesis on the Commission’s table. While Morawiecki confirmed that he wanted to review the justice reform that had led the EU to raise the issue linked to the rule of law and that he was ready for dialogue also on the relationship between European and national law.

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The discussion, however, began with Von Der Leyen determined to stigmatize the sentence of the Polish Constitutional Court: “It questions the basis of the European Union. It constitutes a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal systems”. The crux is always the supremacy of EU rules over those of individual states. And the measures that Warsaw has taken towards the judiciary that according to the Union violate the democratic principles of the rule of law. A situation that forced the EU to intervene for the first time. “By joining the European Union – recalled the President of the Commission – the Poles have put their trust in this project, thinking and expecting that it would rightly defend their rights. The Commission is the guardian of the Treaties and is therefore mine duty to protect the rights of EU citizens, wherever they live on the territory of the Union “. A beating followed immediately by the carrot: “The destiny of Poland is Europe”.

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A sentence caught on the fly by Morawiecki. “For us, European integration is a choice of civilization, we are here, this is our place and we are not going anywhere”. The Polish premier, however, certainly could not retreat from that forum. And so he used the weapons of bombastic rhetoric. By attacking the “double standards” of judgment. Blaming “unwarranted attacks”. And above all underlining the “blackmail” of the suspension of funds, including the Recovery which – for Poland as for Hungary – is still suspended. A way to “terrorize the Poles”. In his opinion, Poland in the Union is a commercial advantage for countries like France and Germany. Once again she took it out on Berlin, accused of dealing with Moscow (for example on the NorthStream pipeline), of respecting the rulings of its Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe and then of not using the same metro with the Poles. He then added: “We are ready for dialogue. Talking about Polexit is a shame”.

Given the similar clash that took place yesterday during the General Affairs Council with the European affairs ministers, a second episode of the telenovela will probably take place tomorrow at the summit of heads of state and government. To understand, at this point, if and when the rope will break.

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