Poland's PM warns EU against starting 'World War Three'

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Participants hold a large EU flag as they take part in a pro-EU demonstration following a ruling of the Constitutional Court against the primacy of EU law in Poland, in Warsaw - WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP
Participants hold a large EU flag as they take part in a pro-EU demonstration following a ruling of the Constitutional Court against the primacy of EU law in Poland, in Warsaw - WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP

Poland has vowed to "defend our rights with any weapons which are at our disposal" as it warned the EU against starting "World War Three" by imposing financial sanctions over Warsaw’s challenge to the supremacy of European law.

In an attempt to give ground in the rule-of-law dispute, Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, promised to dismantle a controversial disciplinary chamber for judges that the European Court of Justice ruled to be illegal by the end of the year.

But Brussels must withdraw threats of legal or financial sanctions if it wants to resolve the long-running spat, he said.

The European Commission has threatened Poland with punitive sanctions, such as withholding tens of billions of euros in EU funding, after the country’s top court ruled that EU treaties do not override national law.

In a bid to ratchet up pressure on Warsaw, EU leaders last week urged the Commission to use a “rule of law conditionality mechanism” to freeze almost €60 billion (£51 billion) of funds to the country.

Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister - Shutterstock
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister - Shutterstock

Mr Morawiecki said any attempt to block “cohesion funds” would be met with strong retaliation, accusing them of making demands with a “gun to our head”. Brussels has already delayed paying out Poland’s share of the bloc’s coronavirus recovery fund because of concerns over the country’s judicial independence.

“What is going to happen if the European Commission will start the Third World War? If they start the Third World War, we are going to defend our rights with any weapons which are at our disposal,” he told the Financial Times.

“But if someone will attack us in a completely unfair way, we will defend ourselves in any possible manner,” he added. “We feel that this is already discriminatory and a diktat type of approach. But if this is going to be even worse, we will have to think through our strategy.”

Senior members of the ruling Law and Justice party have confirmed Poland could veto critical legislation, including the EU’s landmark “Fit for 55” climate package, in retaliation for any punishments.

Mr Morawiecki dismissed fears the dispute could provoke a public campaign to leave the bloc, adding: “There are no risks of Polexit. We will fiercely defend Poland as part of the European Union.”

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