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Several Polish opposition parties on Friday sounded the alarm over Warsawâ€™s potential ejection from the EU and one called for mass demonstrations amid a snowballing crisis over whether Poland must accept full oversight from the European courts.
Fully supported by France and Germany, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday she would â€œuse all the powersâ€ at her disposal to enforce EU law after Polandâ€™s highest court ruled that the countryâ€™s constitution takes precedence over some EU laws. Long the EUâ€™s bÃªte noire over topics such as â€œLGBT-ideology free zones,â€ the courtâ€™s ruling on Thursday represented a major escalation in the tug-of-war between Warsaw and Brussels.
Donald Tusk, leader of Polandâ€™s biggest opposition party Civic Platform and an ex-president of the European Council, called on people to pour into the streets on Sunday in response to the ruling.
â€œThe operation to lead Poland out of Europe, planned by JarosÅ‚aw KaczyÅ„ski, has started at full speed. If we stay idle, nothing will stop him,â€ Tusk said in a statement on Friday.
The Polish constitutional tribunal that set up the clash with Brussels is seen as being under the political control of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, headed by KaczyÅ„ski, Polandâ€™s most powerful politician.
Tusk also slammed Thursdayâ€™s ruling as â€œtreason against our national interests and our regular Polish dreams about security, prosperity and freedom.â€
Gambling with EU membership is a high-risk strategy in a country that has been a leading beneficiary of EU funds for its post-Communist development and where overall public support for membership of the bloc is robust.
The opposition, however, is divided and not all parties are willing to join together in demonstrations led by Tusk. According to POLITICOâ€™s Poll of Polls, support for PiS stands at 38 percent, meaning the governing party could be in trouble if the opposition did ultimately unite against it on a hot-button topic.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who himself had asked the court to review the case, dismissed any suggestion that Warsaw would have to leave the EU.
Polandâ€™s place â€œis and will be in the European family of nations,â€ he said.Â â€œWe want a community of respect and not an association of equal and more equal. Itâ€™s also our community, our Union. This is the Union we want and this is the Union we will continue to create,â€ he said in a Facebook statement.
But the countryâ€™s opposition is unconvinced.Â
The most prominent opposition politicians are not shying away from portraying the ruling as a first step toward Polexit, the Polish equivalent of Brexit.
Civic Platformâ€™s Deputy Chairman Borys Budka, called the judgement â€œa way to Polexit â€¦ One canâ€™t be a member of the EU without complying with basic rules on which the community is based,â€ he tweeted.
Tomasz Grodzki, the speaker of the senate, the upper chamber of the Polish parliament, who also comes from Civic Platform, said opposition senators are â€œshockedâ€ by the ruling and that it â€œis a serious step to move us away from the legal principles, the justice principles and the rule-of-law principles which are standards in the EU.â€
The Left party has requested a discussion on the future of Poland within the EU during the next meeting of the Sejm, Polandâ€™s lower chamber of Parliament, penciled in for Wednesday.Â
â€œ[We want to] hear from the Polish prime minister what the plans are for Poland to stay in the EU, or maybe what the plans are for moving Poland out of the EU. Weâ€™re not calling anymore, weâ€™re demanding that Prime Minister Morawiecki, JarosÅ‚aw KaczyÅ„ski stand in front of Polish men and women in the Sejm and give honest information about what they came up with secretly,â€ said Tomasz Trela, a lawmaker from The Left.Â
Szymon HoÅ‚ownia, the leader of Poland 2050 opposition party, also called on the people to contest the ruling.Â
â€œThe reaction from all of us, regardless of who we voted for, can only take one form: cold, firm, expressed on our [social media] profiles, expressed in the polls,â€ he said on Facebook.Â
Opposition politicians also stressed that Thursdayâ€™s ruling could mean that Poland would not receive money from the EUâ€™s recovery fund anytime soon. The European Commission has made clear that Polandâ€™s pandemic recovery spending program â€” worth â‚¬24 billion in grants and â‚¬12 billion in loans â€” hasnâ€™t yet been approved because of the constitutional tribunal case.
â€œWe can say with confidence that the money coming from the EU is in danger. That means that Polish business owners, Polish workers who want to develop in Poland are in danger,â€ said Cezary Tomczyk, a Civic Platform MP.
But government officials are confident theyâ€™ll receive the EU funds.Â
â€œWe will get this money. Of course that will require some intense discussions,â€ said PaweÅ‚ JabÅ‚oÅ„ski, the countryâ€™s deputy foreign minister.Â
Government spokesperson Piotr MÃ¼ller added that the Commission â€œhas no legal base to prolong the process of approving Polandâ€™s planâ€ to receive the pandemic funds.
According to a recent poll, carried out by SW Research for Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, 64.5 percent of Polish people would still vote to join the EU, if a referendum were held this year, while only 16.2 percent opposed membership.