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The Supreme Court of Poland will decide if EU or national law takes precedence

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – A judge of the Polish Constitutional Court, who called the EU flag a “rag”, will rule on Wednesday on whether EU or Polish legislation takes precedence.

Former lawmaker Kristina Pavlovich, known for her Eurosceptic views, is set to rule on a five-judge panel of the Constitutional Court examining whether the EU treaties comply with the Polish Constitution.

The court, made up mostly of judges nominated by Poland’s Conservative ruling party, agreed to hear the case at the request of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiczki.

Morawicki asked for a review in March after the European Court of Justice ruled that EU law took precedence over the Polish Constitution. The European Court of Human Rights ruled against the backdrop of a larger dispute over changes in the Polish judiciary, initiated by the Law and Justice Party, which the EU sees as an encroachment on judicial independence.

The party has made a number of changes in the functioning of the Polish judiciary since taking office in 2015. It argues that reforms were needed to improve the efficiency of the judiciary and to fight corruption. Critics, however, see the changes as an “attempt by the judiciary to gain control of the law in order to upset the democratic balance of power between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.”

On the eve of the pending verdict of the Constitutional Court, the retired judges of the court expressed concern that it could be a step towards Poland leaving the EU for good. They argued that a Eurosceptic like Pavlovich should not have been involved in the decision.

“A judge who, as an active politician, has repeatedly violently expressed his negative attitude towards the accession of the European Union to Poland should not sit on the bench, especially the session of the president,” the retired judges wrote.

EU member states are expected to bring their laws and regulations into line with those of other member states, from competition to trade to justice to corruption, among others. Poland, a former communist state, joined the bloc in 2004, and economic growth and the travel freedoms that acceded to it made EU membership among the Poles.

Opponents of the rule of law often accuse it of creating the conditions that will one day force Poland to leave the EU.

The decision of the Constitutional Tribunal may increase tensions over the rule of law “in Brussels”.

The Polish government claimed in March that the EU tribunal had exceeded its authority by declaring European legislation superior to the Polish Constitution.

The question of the supremacy of national or EU law has previously been raised in the 27-member bloc, including last year when the German Supreme Court questioned key efforts to promote the eurozone.

In response to this question, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the guardian of the EU treaties, insists that European legislation is always a priority.

In a written explanation to the European Parliament, von der Leyen said that the legislation of the European Community “takes precedence over national law, that the judgments of the European Court are binding on all national courts”.

He said that “the last word on EC law is always spoken in Luxembourg,” where the EU Supreme Court is based. “Nowhere else.”

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Lorraine Cook made her contribution to Brussels.

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