French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune has warned that the European Union is prepared to impose financial sanctions against Poland, as tensions continue to escalate between Warsaw and the bloc over a recent Polish court ruling challenging the supremacy of EU law.
Beaune made the remark on Thursday, saying sanctions could be imposed if dialog with Poland over the primacy of EU laws did not bear fruit.
Earlier this month, Poland's Constitutional Tribunal stated that some elements of EU law were incompatible with the Polish constitution, essentially rejecting the primacy of EU law over national legislation.
European Union leaders are set to meet in Brussels for a two-day summit to discuss the matter, alongside energy prices, COVID-19, migration, trade, and external relations.
Several EU officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told AFP that the rule-of-law issue was so "fundamental" that battle lines being drawn around it had the potential to split the 27-nation bloc. They insisted that there would be no ganging-up against Poland, with a German government official in Berlin saying that dialog would be prioritized because "it's not about making this summit a confrontation."
An official in the French presidency has also stressed that Paris is in no way opposed to the issue being openly discussed, adding, "We have always been at the forefront on (defending) rule of law."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki clashed fiercely at a European Parliament session in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
Von der Leyen called the recent Polish court ruling a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order, warning that the move could not go unpunished and the EU executive would use all instruments at its disposal to rein in Warsaw.
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.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the EU of blackmail, saying Poland's national constitution remained the supreme law of his country. He also said Poland was "being attacked" by EU leaders and it was "unacceptable to talk about financial penalties."
The Commission is also blocking approval of Poland's request for 36 billion euros ($42 billion) in grants and loans from the EU's pandemic recovery fund.
The latest court 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.
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 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 issue.