Poland and the EU Spar over Who Is in Charge

By Noah Tang

Recent developments in Poland have caused concerns that the country is getting ready to leave the European Union, as Britain did in its much-publicized ‘Brexit.’ In response, the EU is denying Poland billions of euros’ worth of funding, including those intended to help rebuild after COVID-19. Many are concerned that this situation will eventually escalate into a ‘Polexit.’

This dispute is but the latest disagreement between the Polish government and the EU. Dr. Glen Duerr, associate professor of international studies at Cedarville University, said, “Technically this is a matter of sovereignty. By signing onto the EU, Poland and Hungary are in a subservient position in relation to EU law. However, both countries see Brussels as overbearing in matters that they view as national sovereignty decisions, such as their court systems or their policies on hot-button issues such as abortion and marriage.”

Alina Leo, administrative assistant for Cedarville’s MBA program, obtained her bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Mykolas Romeris University, in the EU member country of Lithuania. 

She said, “Often the EU’s best interest is really that of the richest members—France, Germany, and the UK prior to Brexit.”

The true matter of contention is whether the EU is sovereign over the individual nation-states within it. Some states believe that they are the ultimate authority for their own nations. Of course, that is contrary to the official position that the EU holds. Voice of America (VOA) reports that the EU sees the recent Polish ruling as a threat to its very existence, since that ruling rejected, “the supremacy of EU law, which is seen as a central pillar of European integration.”

The Polish court system is where EU sovereignty is specifically being tested. However, many EU leaders believe that this tribunal can be misused for political ends and thus compromise the nonpolitical nature of Poland’s judiciary. The European Court of Justice has ruled that the tribunal must be dissolved. In response, the supreme court of Poland decided that the Polish government could disregard the ECJ’s ruling—in other words, that Polish law supersedes EU law. 

According to Dr. Duerr, Poland’s long history of being repeatedly bullied and partitioned helps to explain its recent actions. Duerr stated that sovereignty is very important to the Polish people and that Poland originally joined the EU because such an action was seen as a method of self-preservation. 

“However, many Poles argue the EU has overstepped its original purpose by infringing on Poland’s sovereignty, including its judicial reforms and its policies on marriage and abortion,” Duerr said. “While the ruling party of Poland has conducted some undemocratic actions, some of the EU’s criticism is unfair.”

Despite the current disagreements Poland has with the European Union, it most likely will not leave in the near future. Afterall, the EU’s money is an important part of Poland’s economy. Duerr also observed that Poland is unlikely to leave in the short term because of the complexity of the previous Brexit process.

“Brexit was so messy that no other country wants to repeat the process,” Duerr said. “However, the EU has recently doubled down on socially progressive policies, which could lead to a confrontation with several countries in Central Europe.” 

However, according to Duerr the EU has not been consistent when it comes to enforcing its authority. But, the EU’s record on enforcing its rule is not consistent. 

“The whole EU project is about compromise, and this could be another example of trying to find the middle ground. However, ‘Polexit’ is possible in the medium term, as is the departure of Hungary and the Czech Republic, should a middle ground not be found,” Duerr said. 

“The UK is a rich country and can afford to leave the EU. However, Poland is a poor country and depends heavily on EU funding,” Leo said. “Is it in Poland’s best interest to defend its sovereignty at all costs, or to remain in the EU and continue receiving their business? There’s not a clear right or wrong side, just what each country decides is in its best interest.”

Noah Tang is a super-senior Business Management major and a writer for Cedars. He likes to spend time with friends, study theology and watch movies.

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