Polish foreign minister says EU treaties are "sacred' in rule of law dispute

The minister said that democratic societies had to be protected from the situation in which authorities, in this case EU bodies, increase their own powers on the basis of their own interpretation of the law. Radek Pietruszka/PAP

The Polish foreign minister has described EU treaties as “sacred”, and that Poland expects them to be upheld in its dispute with the EU over a rule of law clause in the new budget.

The clause, linking funding to upholding principles of rule of law, has run into steadfast opposition from Poland and Hungary, which argue that it violates EU treaties and could lead to discrimination against some member states. This has led them to block the next seven-year budget, which also includes a special fund to help EU states recover from the economic effects of the pandemic.

In an article written for the Friday edition of the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Zbigniew Rau, the foreign minister, wrote that Poland stands ready to unblock the recovery fund.

But, he added, "attempts must cease to undermine the principle that the rule of law is about complying with applicable law - and ensuring that secondary law complies with primary law; both at member state and EU level.

“The provisions of the Treaties are sacred and inviolable for the Union. Poland expects nothing more," Rau continued.

The minister argued that while Warsaw was involved in a dispute with Brussels over the rule of law, the EU had no legal right to interfere in an overhaul of the Polish judicial system that has attracted international criticism amid fears it could undermine the rule of law.

"No member state has ever had the right to interfere in either the German or Polish judiciary and therefore cannot pass on that right to European institutions," Rau wrote.

The foreign minister said he had "great respect" for the German legal tradition, which has had an influence on the European understanding of legal principles.

Germany's Federal Constitutional Tribunal, Rau said, had ruled many times that European institutions, including the European Court of Justice, can neither act nor judge "ultra vires" on areas in which they are not given a clear remit to by the treaties.

Poland was today defending legal principles, he argued, important to Europeans, pointing out that "any competence not conferred on the Union by the Treaties belongs to the member states."

He wrote that Poland was opposed to the introduction to EU law of rules to which neither Germany nor Poland, nor any other nation, had consented to.

The minister said that democratic societies had to be protected from the situation in which authorities, in this case EU bodies, increase their own powers on the basis of their own interpretation of the law.