Europe

Polish court delays ruling on primacy of EU law

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Protesters attend a demonstration taking place during a session of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, ruling on whether several articles of EU Treaties comply with the Polish Constitution, in front of the Constitutional Tribunal building in Warsaw, Poland September 22, 2021. Banners read "Unconstitutional Tribunal" and "Constitution" REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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WARSAW, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Poland's Constitutional Tribunal on Wednesday adjourned its sitting on whether the country's constitution or European Union treaties take precedence. An EU commissioner said earlier the challenge was holding up the release of EU funds to Warsaw.

Poland is involved in a series of disputes with the EU on issues ranging from courts and media freedom to LGBT rights, as critics accuse its nationalist government of inching towards an exit from the bloc.

"Due to the emergence of new circumstances and new allegations and to be able to ask insightful questions ... the Constitutional Tribunal adjourns until Sept. 30," the head of the Tribunal, Julia Przylebska, said after hearing the parties.

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Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki brought the case as part of a dispute with the EU over changes to Poland's judicial system, which Brussels says may undermine judicial independence.

The primacy of European laws over national ones is a key tenet of European integration. read more

Warsaw says Brussels has no right to interfere with the judicial systems of EU member states and argues the reforms were needed to remove communist-era influence in the judiciary and speed up proceedings.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski says the EU's insistence on the primacy of EU law over national legislation undermines the foundations of Poland's sovereignty and its constitutional order. read more

EU FUNDS AT STAKE

While some warn of a potential "Polexit", Poland is unlikely to leave the bloc any time soon. There is no legal way to throw countries out of the EU and most Poles support membership.

A survey this month showed 88% of Poles believed Poland should remain in the EU and only 7% favoured pulling out, but nearly a third believed leaving was a possibility.

But Poland could lose EU funds that have helped its economic development. European Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has said the court challenge is holding up 57 billion euros ($66 billion) in EU recovery aid to Warsaw. read more

The EU's top court ruled in July that a Polish disciplinary chamber for judges was illegal, a day after the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw ruled that Poland should ignore a previous demand to stop the chamber operating.

Following a threat of financial penalties from the European Commission, Poland said it would disband the chamber, but hasn't provided details. read more

Warsaw is also waiting to hear from the Commission after five Polish regions refused to back out of declarations they would remain "LGBT-free", which means they may lose EU funds. read more

On Monday, the EU court ordered Poland to pay a 500,000 euro daily fine for defying a ruling to halt the Turow lignite mine on the border with the Czech Republic. Warsaw vowed to keep the mine running despite the penalty. read more

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Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Pawel Florkiewicz and Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Giles Elgood and Alex Richardson

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