A war of words between Poland and the European Union (EU) escalates as Warsaw accuses the EU of blackmail while Brussels vows to punish Poland for challenging the bloc's laws.
Addressing the European Parliament and politicians in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused the EU of blackmail and said Poland's national constitution remained the supreme law of his country. He said Poland was "being attacked" by EU leaders and it was "unacceptable to talk about financial penalties."
"Blackmail must not be a method of policy," said Morawiecki of Poland's ruling conservative-nationalist Law and Justice Party. Morawiecki rejected "the language of threats" and accused the EU of overstepping its powers.
The remarks came after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the session called a recent ruling by Poland's top court a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order, warning that the move could not go unpunished.
She stressed that the ruling had also called into question the foundations of the bloc. She said she would act to prevent Poland from undermining EU values.
"The rule of law is the glue that binds our union together," Von der Leyen said. "We cannot and we will not allow our common values to be put at risk. The commission will act," she said, but added she was open to dialog with Warsaw over the matter.
"This is a situation that can and must be resolved. And we want a strong Poland in a united Europe," she said.
The options, Von der Leyen said, comprised legally challenging the court ruling, withholding EU funds, and suspending some of Poland's rights as a member state.
The clash in the European Parliament follows a top Polish court ruling earlier this month that rejected key parts of EU law. Last week, the Polish Constitutional Court rejected the supremacy of some of the EU laws, arguing they were incompatible with Poland's constitution.
In recent days, thousands of Poles have demonstrated in more than 100 towns and cities, backing EU membership. The demonstrations took place amid fear of the country's exit from the bloc.
The ruling has raised fears that it could be a first step toward Poland leaving the 27-nation EU. However, the Polish government says it has no plans for an exit.