German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of dividing powers within the European Union, urging more unity and solidarity within the bloc, following rising tensions between EU and Poland over a recent Polish court ruling challenging the supremacy of EU law.
Merkel made the remarks in a speech after accepting the Carlos V European Award from Spanish King Felipe VI at a ceremony in Spain on Thursday, saying such dividing forces rise up when the EU fails to fulfill its promises and social and financial variations are allowed to develop too big.
“Let’s not kid ourselves: Centrifugal forces have been at work in the EU for several years now,” she said, stressing that “Europe is only as strong as it is united.”
Merkel further called on Europeans to overcome their differences, noting that unity can also be vital in dealing with global powers outside the EU.
“The way we treat China’s rise as an economic, political and military Array force …it depends a lot on whether Europe speaks with one voice,” she said.
Markel’s latest warning came after Poland's Constitutional Tribunal ruled last week that parts of EU law were not in line with the country's constitution, challenging European integration and strengthening the perspective that Poland might one day quit the bloc.
The verdict drew strong condemnation from the European Commission, with its president Ursula von der Leyen voicing serious concerns over the ruling and warning that the EU executive would do all in its power to ensure the primacy of EU law.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has also said the bloc will give a "firm answer" to the Polish ruling and will call on Warsaw to "abide by the rules of the club."
The court ruling is likely to further damage Poland's already troubled relationship with the 27-member bloc.
Warsaw and Brussels have been at loggerheads since the Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015. They are now on a full collision course on the rule of law.
Polish PM berates EU
On Thursday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused EU institutions of infringing on the rights of member states.
This comes as Morawiecki is getting prepared to attend the European Parliament session in Strasbourg next week to present Warsaw's position in a row over the rule of law.
"We are at a crucial moment, you could say at a crossroads in the EU's history," he said at the Polish Parliament, adding "Democracy is being tested - how far will European nations retreat before this usurpation by some EU institutions?"
In response to Morawiecki's comments, European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said an in-depth analysis of the Polish court ruling is underway, adding that an initial assessment pointed to "very serious issues in relation to the primacy of EU law".
Earlier this year, Morawiecki filed a request for the Constitutional Tribunal to review the compatibility of EU treaties with the Polish Constitution, a move that sparked controversy in Brussels.
The EU rejects the legitimacy of the court due to political interference from Poland’s PiS.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), based in Luxembourg, has also repeatedly ruled against Poland’s judicial reforms.
Poland’s government insists that the justice system and the judiciary are the sole purview of EU member nations and not the EU, and has ignored a number of the EU court’s rulings.
Poland has been a member of the EU since 2004. Its confrontations with the EU have spurred talk of a "Polexit", though Warsaw says it has no intention of following Britain out of the EU.