Court delays ruling on whether EU or Polish law has primacy

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A woman wearing a vest inspired by the European Union flag and holding a Polish flag protests outside the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland, on Wednesday April 28, 2021. The constitutional court was to rule on Wednesday on whether Polish or European Union law has primacy in the country. It delayed its proceedings until May 13. Its ruling could affect the future relationship of the EU member nation with the rest of the bloc. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – Poland's constitutional court on Wednesday delayed issuing a decision on whether Polish or European Union law has primacy in the country, a ruling that could affect the future relationship of the EU member nation with the rest of the bloc.

Judge Krystyna Pawlowicz, a former lawmaker who has called the EU flag a “rag" and expressed euroskeptic views, had been expected to deliver the ruling of a five-judge Constitutional Tribunal panel that is considering whether EU treaties conform with the Polish Constitution.

But soon after a court hearing opened, Pawlowicz delayed the proceedings until May 13.

The court, which is largely made up of judges nominated by Poland's conservative ruling party, agreed to examine the matter at the request of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Morawiecki asked for the review in March after the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that EU law takes precedence over the Polish Constitution. That came amid a larger dispute over changes to the Polish judicial system, initiated by the Law and Justice party, which the EU views as an assault on judicial independence.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller said Wednesday that he expected the Constitutional Tribunal to find that the Polish Constitution is above European law.

Law and Justice has made a number of changes to the operation of Poland's judiciary since taking power in 2015. It argues reforms were needed to improve the efficiency of the court system and to fight corruption. Critics, however, see the changes as an attempt by Law and Justice to gain control in a way that erodes the democratic balance of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

On Tuesday, retired judges from the court expressed concerns that the procedure could be a step toward Poland's eventual departure from the EU. They argued that a euroskeptic like Pawlowicz should not have been involved in the decision.