Serious, unspeakable and even downright grave, it is something that we cannot stand idly by. When the Polish leaders get a Constitutional Court at their orders to decide that national law takes precedence over European law, they are violating the Treaties that their country has voluntarily signed and are thus undermining all the institutions common to the 27 States of the Union.
For the simple reason that this is not acceptable, the Commission must enforce the financial sanctions at its disposal and thus recall that the Union is not a stall from which to take what you like (the subsidies) and leave what you no longer want (the respect for the rule of law).
The Commission will have the full support of the Parliament, but does this Polish ruling herald a Polexit, which would itself foreshadow other departures from the Union?
The answer is “no”, categorically “no” because 80% of Poles are attached to European unity. They do not intend to give it up. This was evident from the scale of Sunday’s demonstrations, which were filled with a sea of European flags. This is a far cry from the British situation, where the European question split a disunited kingdom in two. Not only will nothing of the sort happen in Warsaw, but none of the other member states is tempted by the British way, whose attractions, moreover, are constantly diminishing.
The crumbling of the Union is not on the agenda. On the contrary, by rallying to the ideas of common defence and strategic autonomy, the European Union is entering the third moment of its history, the attempt to build a political union, but then what?
What does the Polish decision indicate?
Above all, this stiffening reflects the anxiety of reactionary conservatives straight out of the 19th century and now totally overwhelmed by an extremely young country that is breaking with a pre-conciliar episcopate, turning its back on yesterday’s conventions in favour of feminism and the revolution in morals, and living, as in Paris, Berlin or Amsterdam, bicycle, ecology and the rejection of ecclesial abuses. Caught between such a European youth and the EU’s condemnation of the judiciary’s subservience to political power, the Law and Justice Party, PiS, and its high priest, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, no longer know where to turn. Not without reason, they fear losing the 2023 elections and are therefore trying to remobilise their electorate by showing their muscles, but without going as far as breaking up.
The Commission will not want to go as far as the irreparable either. Like the great anger it arouses and the sanctions to which it will lead, the Polish ruling is a role-playing exercise that both parties had to engage in, but beyond that, two questions remain pending.
The first is whether the oppositions that are rising up in Central Europe against authoritarian or even dictatorial powers will be able to propose an economic and social programme that will ensure their victory. Like Viktor Orban in Hungary, Jaroslaw Kaczynski was able to capitalise on the discontent caused by the transition to a market economy and happily distribute the budget surpluses accumulated by their liberal predecessors.
This, rather than their conservatism, had ensured their victory, and their opponents, although clearly on the rise, will remain fragile as long as they are unable to propose a new social contract. We have just seen this in the Czech Republic, where the centre-right and centre-left won on Saturday over Andrej Babis, but by so little that they have not yet put an end to his political career.
The second question posed by the Polish ruling is, in other words, how long the national-conservatives, defeated or not, will still carry weight in the Union, and the answer to this is not given.