Brexit domino effect? Poland threatened EU pandemonium with decisive referendum

EU: Expert on fears of Poland being 'marginalised'

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The EU is facing a defining week for its future after one of its members, Poland, has decided to challenge the bloc’s entire legal order in a series of court battles. A trio of rulings in Warsaw and Luxembourg could have profound consequences for the future of the bloc. Yesterday, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, its highest court, postponed a ruling on whether the constitution takes precedence over EU treaties.

Today, the same court will consider a separate case on whether the European Court of Justice can force Warsaw to suspend its judicial reforms.

And on Thursday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the EU’s top court, will rule on whether a new disciplinary regime for judges set up by the Polish government is in breach of the country’s EU treaty obligations.

The mechanism allows judges to be punished by Warsaw for a number of reasons, including the content of their rulings.

Polish officials are adamant that judicial reforms are needed to overhaul the country’s system, claiming it has not been adequately altered since the fall of communism.

And they claim the cases being heard by the tribunal are vital because the EU has allegedly grown its powers without sufficiently changing its operating treaties.

Poland’s deputy justice minister Sebastian Kaleta said: “This is not only about Poland.

“The issue is that some European officials are trying to give the EU greater competencies without changing the treaties.

“This is very dangerous, because it will implode the EU from within.”

In December 2019, Poland’s Supreme Court did warn Brussels that government plans to overhaul the justice system could eventually force the country to leave the EU.

In the end, the radical judicial reforms never saw the light of day but Andrzej Duda’s re-election as President last year complicated things for Brussels once again.

Unearthed reports suggest the president could also re-push for a referendum on the nation’s EU membership — and even follow the UK out of the bloc, triggering a Brexit domino effect.

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In 2018, Mr Duda laid out plans to address the country’s relationship with the bloc as part of a wide-ranging constitutional referendum for the first time since Warsaw joined the bloc.

Mr Duda had long argued that Poland’s 1997 constitution needed to be updated.

According to a throwback report by the Financial Times, the Polish leader set out a list of questions that citizens could have been asked in the vote.

Of the 15 questions, two dealt directly with Poland’s relationship with the EU.

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One asked whether or not Poland’s membership of the bloc should have been guaranteed in the constitution.

A second asked whether the primacy of the Polish constitution over international and European law should have been guaranteed.

Mr Duda claimed that a constitutional guarantee of Poland’s EU membership could have “strengthened” its presence in the bloc.

Apart from the questions governing Poland’s relationship with the EU, Mr Duda also proposed consulting voters on whether the constitution should have guaranteed membership of NATO, as well as allow greater use of referendums.

His proposed questions addressed a number of domestic issues, too, including expanding the president’s powers in foreign affairs and defence — an area in which Mr Duda frequently clashed with former defence minister Antoni Macierewicz — and whether Poland and Europe’s “more than 1,000-year-old Christian heritage” should have been referenced in the constitution.

Despite the president’s efforts, at the time, Poland’s Senate torpedoed his bid for the non-binding referendum on a new constitution.

Senators voted 10 in favour to 30 against, with 52 abstentions, in the 100-member upper house of parliament that is dominated by the governing PiS party.

Under Polish law, it is up to the Senate to decide whether to proceed with presidential proposals.

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