European Parliament ‘will sue’ Ursula von der Leyen if she won’t punish Poland

·3-min read
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the European Parliament - Ronald Wittek/Pool EPA
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the European Parliament - Ronald Wittek/Pool EPA

MEPs have threatened to sue Ursula von der Leyen unless she follows through on threats to withhold tens of billions of euros in EU funding from Poland in a battle over the rule of law.

In an escalation of the dispute between Brussels and Warsaw, political leaders from the European Parliament said they would launch legal action if the European Commission President refused to use the bloc’s “conditionality mechanism” to block funding to Poland.

Warsaw has infuriated the EU by refusing to override a decision by its constitutional court, which last month ruled that it has supremacy over the bloc’s laws.

The move by MEPs is an attempt to force von der Leyen’s hand amid mounting fears the row could lead to the EU’s collapse.

Watch: Poland rule-of-law row to dominate EU summit

Road to possible legal action

On Thursday, EU leaders will challenge the Commission’s president to make good on her promises to withhold money or strip the country of its voting rights at a summit in Brussels.

Ahead of the gathering, David Sassoli, the European Parliament’s president, announced the plans to sue Mrs von der Leyen.

“EU Member States that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds. Last year, Parliament fought hard for a mechanism to ensure this. However, so far the European Commission has been reluctant to use it,” Mr Sassoli said.

“The European Union is a community built on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. If these are under threat in a Member State, the EU must act to protect them.

“I have therefore asked our legal services to prepare a lawsuit against the Commission to ensure that EU rules are properly enforced."

Watch: 10 ways to Brexit proof your finances

‘We need to act now’

The move was agreed by political leaders from the Parliament, including an ally of France’s Emmanuel Macron. 

Stephane Sejourne, a French MEP who recently became the most senior liberal in the Parliament, said the legal action should be carried out “as soon as possible”.

He condemned the Commission for its “failure to apply the rule of law conditionality mechanism against Poland”.

“We need to act now for the freedoms and rights of Polish citizens,” he added.

EU could collapse ‘brick by brick’

Esther de Lange, a Dutch MEP and senior member of the European People's Party, of which Mrs von der Leyen is a member, warned that the EU risked collapsing “brick by brick” unless Poland is brought back into line.

Poland stands to lose out on €57 billion (£48 billion) from the EU's pandemic recovery fund.

European Council President Charles Michel agreed to address the rule-of-law dispute at the gathering after initially attempting to keep it off the agenda, under orders from France and Germany.

A senior EU diplomat said: “We cannot not address it because it is a very serious issue.”

The source, however, played down fears that Poland could become a “dirty remainer” by blocking EU legislation. They said: “We're talking about 27 dirty remainers because every member state at some point has had issues.”

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