On Thursday the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission and the European Council of Ministers to initiate legal proceedings against Poland, and to refuse all monies from the Covid recovery fund.
This was in reaction to a ruling by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal on October 7 that parts of the EU treaties are incompatible with Poland’s own constitution, as they claim primacy of EU law over that of the legal systems of individual member states.
The Polish Constitution was adopted in 1997 as part of the democratic reconstruction of the country following decades of one party rule by the Communists. It is a lengthy and comprehensive document which enumerates all the basic democratic and human rights which were denied under Communism.
The interpretation of those rights led to the decision in October 2020 by the Constitutional Tribunal to rule that the provision of abortion for fetal abnormalities was incompatible with the protections outlined in the Constitution. That decision is at the centre of the onslaught on Polish legal sovereignty as defined in Article 8. The Poles claim that Article 9 which commits the Polish Republic to “respect international law binding upon it” does not include what they describe as ideologically framed EU mandates.
That this is indeed the case is instanced by the language being used by the Commission and the Parliament. There has been much reference to “common values”, but as Gript has reported earlier this week, Poland does not accept that this can be used to undermine national sovereignty.
The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawlecki has also stressed that his government does not want to leave the EU but that the attempts to override Poland’s own judicial system are unacceptable, and indeed ought to have no basis in any interpretation of what is supposed to be the fundamentals of the EU.
Poland has little support from most other EU governments nor within the Parliament. Hungary has been Poland’s staunchest ally and has itself come into conflict with the Commission and the Parliament with regards to provisions within its own domestic legislation.
In July, Hungary published a Joint Declaration on the Future of Europe which focused on the “constant reinterpretation of the Treaties” in a manner designed to increasingly delimit the sovereignty of the member states. The Manifesto bluntly commits itself to the reassertion of common European values based on respect for the traditions, culture and history that are both part of each country’s own heritage but also of a common European legacy. Any changes within the Union need to be on the basis of consensus, not mandates, it says.
This stance was echoed yesterday by Hungarian Justice Minister Judith Varga who bluntly claimed that the move against Poland, and by implication of course her own country, is a reflection of the ideological balance of forces within the Parliament which is clearly to the liberal left, even amongst most of the ostensibly conservative parties.
Irish people are of course well used to seeing how that consensus operates within the Oireachtas, and this conformity on issues of sovereignty and liberal “social issues” in particular was evidenced by the vote in the Parliament on Thursday.
There are 13 Irish MEPs, there are none from the north since Brexit, and all 12 of them who were present at the Parliament yesterday were among the majority of MEPs who voted in favour of sanctions against Poland.
While the support for practically anything the EU bureaucracy has ever done has been the hallmark of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for 50 years, one might naively have expected something different from Sinn Féin who used strikingly similar language to the Poles when Sinn Féin opposed the further encroachments on the sovereignty of the Irish state in successive Treaties including the Nice and Lisbon Treaties which were initially rejected by those who voted in the referendums in 2001 and 2008.
In outlining Sinn Féin’s opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, the party’s then Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, correctly stated that:
The Lisbon Treaty contains the most substantial institutional and procedural changes to the structure and operation of the European Union since its foundation. The Treaty also contains the most substantial transfer of powers from member states to the European Council and Commission to date. Despite claims of making the EU more democratic and efficient the Lisbon Treaty will move political power further away from ordinary citizens offering only cosmetic increases in powers to Parliaments in member states and the European Parliament in return.
In particular, Ó Snodaigh objected to the proposal to create a “single legal personality” which would allow the EU to assume even greater powers that ought to be the prerogative of individual sovereign states.
So what has changed? Why were Sinn Féin and the Irish people right in 2008, but the Poles are now to be condemned as “rude” – to use one of the words on the Parliament resolution framed in consultation with Sinn Féin’s far left grouping – for asserting exactly the same thing?
The short answer to that of course is that the only thing that has changed, along with a whole raft of other dilutions of Sinn Féin’s former nationalism, is Sinn Fein’s having become part of the political establishment.