Poland’s Constitutional Court ruling that European law does not always hold supremacy over national law is not what the fear-mongering commentariat deem it to be. When Poland brought about an attempt to reform its Communist-era judicial system, the European Courts had ruled that Poland had acted contrary to “European law,” demanding the reversal of the reforms and imposing financial penalties for failure to do so. The reforms included introducing an age limit on judges with mandatory retirement (as we have here) and a procedure to remove judges for misbehaviour (as we have here), among other things. To call this an “attack on the rule of law” can most generously be described as hyperbole.
It was this ruling which the Polish Courts rejected. Nowhere in the Treaties is the European Union or its institutions empowered to interfere with national judiciaries and the manner of appointments, retirements or disciplinary actions: “the Polish Constitutional Court has confirmed that EU law has primacy over national law only in areas of delegated competence.”
There is nothing controversial in this statement of law. It is envisaged by the European Treaties that all powers not explicitly delegated to (or explicitly sharing competence with) the European institutions remain the prerogative of the Member States: “In certain areas and under the conditions laid down in the Treaties, the Union shall have competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States, without thereby superseding their competence in these areas.”
The furore then is a false one, one drummed up by Eurofederalists and liberals in order to further the powers of the European Union.
The truth of the issue will be set aside by international media.
The Financial Times declared that “The (Polish) government’s campaign is first and foremost an attack on Poland’s institutions and constitution.” This despite the fact that the Court was upholding and defending both the constitutional order and national law.
Poland’s ruling is nothing unique either – Germany’s Constitutional Court came to the same conclusion that the European Union had exceeded its competence with regards to bond-buying. The Czech Republic had also previously declared rulings by the European Courts to have been ultra vires, as far back as 2012.
As the European Union continues its trenchant advance into national competencies, we should expect from our leaders to stand up for the sovereign rights of our Nation with the same vigour with which they stand up for the rights of foreign companies to be taxed at 12.5% – but until we begin to hold them to account for their weakness, they won’t.
They all want a job in the Commission after all.