Poland, again. Why, so many ask, have the Brussels committees have to deal with this Pole and his extra sausages for years? The answer – you hardly dare to point it out – is simple: because Poles in the parliamentary elections in 2019 voted for the Law and Justice party (PiS) with 43.6 percent, after the PiS gained almost 38 percent in 2015 could and has ruled for six years. In addition, the PiS grandees – unlike the vast majority of mandataries elected to the highest offices in many EU countries – have largely remained true to their line. This course, which has been successful in Poland, consists of a mixture of stick-Catholic, arch-reactionary and socially paternalistic – an horror for the largely liberal bubble that commutes between Brussels and Strasbourg.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg (ECJ) against the Sejm in Warsaw, this confrontation dominates the European Union. Since the top EU judges issued a fine of one million euros (per day) to Poland on October 27, 2021, not only has the community’s house blessing been crooked, it has already done so, but the common house is in danger . The reason for this drastic step is Warsaw’s refusal to implement an ECJ ruling that had already asked Poland in the summer to cash in on its judicial reform.
Where does the ECJ stand?
This is not only about, but first of all, the so-called disciplinary chamber, a state institution established in 2018 that can initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges. Brussels saw this as jeopardizing the independence of the Polish judiciary; However, this had already been politically colored by the previous government of the liberal Civic Platform (PO). Before she was voted out of office in 2015, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, “Tusk’s loyal successor” (HE DOES), five new constitutional judges were appointed, although their posts only became vacant after the election. At the time, Brussels had no objection to this political approach to the Constitutional Court. However, the hastily appointed lawyers were not recognized by the PiS, which is why it tried by all means to replace them with legal judges who were agreeable to it.
The pressure from the European Court of Justice was evaded in Warsaw when, at the beginning of August, Poland’s strong man, PiS boss Jarosław Kaczyński, allowed the disciplinary chamber project to expire by the end of 2021. Since then, cat and mouse has been played until the said October 27, when the Supreme Court in Luxembourg put an end to the game.
Established in 1952 as a small dispute settlement chamber within the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), it has developed over the years into a powerful body of the EU. With hundreds of infringement proceedings annually, its three dozen judges watch over the core of the community: the four freedoms, i.e. the unhindered movement of capital, goods, services and workers. The ECJ sees itself as the merciless guardian of unhindered competition, as the spearhead of the liberal economic order, regardless of whether it is threatened by states or trade unions. In 2018, for example, he came to the aid of a good 200 Austrian large landowners when they sued the Hungarian state, which declared straw men contracts for the illegal acquisition of land to be invalid. The ECJ agreed with the great agrarians, arguing that there was “indirect discrimination against the free movement of capital”. Or the court unceremoniously declared a strike by Finnish trade unionists to be illegal in 2008 when they opposed the shipping company’s flag change to Estonia as a low-wage location.
So now Poland and its judiciary are in the sights of the EU judges. Your advance is remarkable insofar as it is based on the not yet fully judged “rule of law mechanism”. This was decided on January 1, 2021 against the longstanding resistance of Poland and Hungary and gives the EU extensive sanction options such as reduced budget funds; Of course, this only happens when EU funds are involved. Hungary and Poland sued against the possibility of sanctions in the event that the independence of the judiciary is jeopardized. Ironically, they had to do that before the ECJ. It was agreed with the Commission not to use the rule of law mechanism until the end of this procedure. The fact that the ECJ is now resorting to it shows how confused the situation in the EU is.
No question about it, the dispute has reached a new dimension. The European Parliament has filed a lawsuit against the EU Commission for “inaction” (all there is!) Because someone there still remembers the deal with Poland and Hungary and wants to wait for their objections. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been holding back money from the 750 billion euro Corona aid fund for both countries for months, specifically 24 billion for Poland and twelve for Hungary; True to the motto: Health and the fight against Corona must be able to wait until Warsaw and Budapest dance to the Brussels pipe.
When, at the beginning of October, the Polish Supreme Court ruled that the ECJ was not fundamentally above Polish constitutional law, the crash could no longer be stopped. National before EU law, that was also decreed – as early as May 2020 – by the Karlsruhe constitutional judges when the ECB bought bonds, but at that time this dissent was not fueled politically. There was also no mention of sanctions against Germany. All EU institutions are taking a stand against Poland. And Warsaw countered. A week after the sentence was pronounced, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki found himself in an interview with the Financial Times clear words against the “discriminatory treatment” and the “dictation-like approach” of the EU. He threatened Brussels: “If you start World War III, we will defend our rights with all means at our disposal.”
Dependent on coal
In addition to the political pressure from Brussels, Poland is fighting like no other EU country with the extremely rising energy prices. The EU emissions trading system is particularly expensive for Warsaw. The three big energy companies – Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), Tauron and Enea – are three quarters dependent on coal. Their price has exploded in the past few months because of the carbon dioxide outlet trade. The emission allowance for one ton, which cost five euros at the beginning of 2017, will remain at 62 euros as of October 1, 2021. In addition, the certificates are extremely popular speculative papers on the stock exchanges. Hedge funds like Energy Capital Management are driving the price up. That the whole system has nothing to do with climate protection has to be discussed elsewhere. This is only about the effects on the Polish economy “anchored in coal”.
Because energy can no longer be produced profitably due to the skyrocketing CO₂ certificates, the government has allowed the energy giants to outsource their deficit coal production to a state company, thus passing the costs on to the taxpayer. Complete nationalization of the most important energy source is also on the agenda. However, that would call Brussels back on the scene. The European emissions trading system could thus indirectly become the decisive – economic – factor for Poland to drive the country out of the EU.