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Tuesday, 19 October 2021 - Strasbourg Provisional edition

The Rule of law crisis in Poland and the primacy of EU law (debate)

  Guy Verhofstadt (Renew). – Mr President, I would like to say to the Prime Minister that I have listened to him carefully for 30 minutes.

Prime Minister, even if you had spoken for an hour, I would have silently listened to you. You didn’t talk about the ruling of the constitutional court because the ruling of the constitutional court is very clear. Article 1 and Article 19 of the Treaty are null and void in Poland and are in contradiction with the Polish constitution. That’s the decision of the constitutional court in Poland. And that is a constitution and a Treaty, Article 1 and Article 19, that you accepted in 2004, that the past government accepted at the moment of the Lisbon Treaty. And you know what these articles –Article 1 and Article 19 – are. Article 1 is an ever—closer union, and Article 19 is the central role of the European Court of Justice. By the way, it is exactly for the same reasons that the hard Brexiteers went out of the European Union – for these two articles, Article 1 and Article 19.

The sinister game that you are playing is very clear. The sinister game is that you are putting a politicised constitutional court inside Poland, and that politicised constitutional court is criticised by whom? By the European Court of Justice. The way to eliminate the decisions of the European Court of Justice is to take, with the politicised constitutional court of Poland, a decision that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) no longer has a right of decision in Poland. That is what you have done, and what you defend here. You are making references to others, to the French and the Germans, and there is something to say about the German constitutional court and so on, but they never did that. They never said that Article 1 and Article 19 were no longer applicable in Poland, in their country. They never did that. Like I said, the Brexiteers did that. What you have done is, in fact, put an existential threat to your country and, most of all, to the people, to the Polish people, who are the most pro-European people of the entire European Union. That is what you have done.

And that reminds me of something very dramatic in European history, by the end of the 18th century, when a great country like Poland disappears and makes a fatal mix of bad governance, of external threats and the betrayal of conservatives who could not accept a modern Polish constitution at that time. Am I the only one who sees some fatal resemblance here with what is happening today in Poland? So I have to tell you – I know that you are a historian, Prime Minister – so I wanted, in fact, to start my speech and to end my speech with a classic historical book: ‘The March of Folly’ by Barbara Tuchman, because it reminds me of what is happening in Poland today. It starts with a simple decision, and it goes to another decision, and a further decision, and that is when the folly starts. It is not, in fact, people who want that, not the ordinary Polish citizens, it is the ego of big power players who are not thinking what the disaster will be at the end of the story.

So my wish, Prime Minister, is please, come back from these stupid decisions and end, together with the Polish people, this march of the folly that you have entered in 2015.

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