The week ahead: Poleaxed to Polexit
From ‘Fit for 55’ to fit for nothing
Poland enters legal black hole
One of the most basic tenets of the EU is that it is a union based on law. In a nutshell, the Commission puts a proposal forward and then — usually — the European Parliament, made up of MEPs from every member state, and national ministers in the Council battle it out until a broadly acceptable compromise is reached. Then everyone respects the agreed law, more or less, with the occasional slap on the wrist. If you don’t think a national administration is respecting the law you can protect your rights via your courts. At least this is how it should work. More or less.
The PiS-led government in Poland has however decided otherwise. The Court of Justice of the European Union has found that Poland’s disciplinary regime for judges does not guarantee impartiality and independence, and is open to political influence. This should be disturbing in itself, but disciplinary proceedings have been started as a result of judges making a reference for a preliminary ruling to the EU court, in effect punishing judges for respecting the fact that Poland as an EU member has agreed to the primacy of EU law over national law. Rather than rectify the situation the Polish government is doubling down.
Today (16 July) a Polish government spokesperson told journalists that the European court’s judgement on the Disciplinary Chamber is unconstitutional, there are no grounds to implement it in Poland and it expects the European Commission to act within the Treaties. This is a de facto, if not de jure, Polexit. The EU will have to take action and swiftly.
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council (19 July) will discuss the organic action plan, which aims to make at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land organic by 2030; discuss trade issues; turkey welfare and the European citizens’ initiative ‘End the Cage Age’.
An informal council of environment ministers in Slovenia (20-21 July) will discuss the FF55 package (see above) the preparations for COP26 in Glasgow in November; biodiversity; and, a report on the implementation of the pollinators initiative.
A meeting of research ministers (21 July) will discuss the European Research Area and the Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe. The competitiveness ministers (22 July) will discuss the transition to a circular economy and creative industries as a generator of added value in the economy.
An informal meeting of Europe ministers (22-23 July) will discuss: enlargement policy; the rule of law; and, the activities relating to the Conference on the Future of Europe.
As for the European Parliament, next week MEPs will be involved in “external parliamentary activities and constituency work”, or as they say in common parlance, “on holiday”. That is probably a little unfair. The parliament’s official holiday starts the following week. Since being an MEP is more like a vocation than a regular job one could question if they are ever truly on holiday. We hope that they get a chance to put their feet up and recharge their batteries.
On Thursday (22 July) the UK will present *its* way forward on the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) to the Westminster parliament. The NIP is, of course, part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, so one might have thought that this would be something the UK would discuss with the EU beforehand — but seemingly not.
And if you thought trust in the UK was at a low ebb in Brussels…
The British government has managed to unite Northern Ireland’s political parties on at least one topic, a complete collapse in confidence in the Boris Johnson government. UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis’s proposal for an amnesty for all prosecutions of those involved in the “Troubles”, Northern Ireland’s thirty years of conflict, was met with disbelief from all sides.
There are no easy solutions in post-conflict situations. As Seamus Heaney wrote: “No one can right a wrong, inflicted or endured”, but the sweeping aside of the search for answers and justice with a unilateral blanket amnesty has alienated all.
President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to the Czech Republic to present the Commission approval of their national recovery plan (19 July) and on Tuesday (20 July) she will meet with Bill Gates.
The College of Commissioners will take place on Tuesday, as Wednesday is a Belgian bank holiday.
On Thursday, the European Central Bank will have its regular monthly update. This will be the first one since the presentation of its strategic review on 8 July.