Macron’s France-EU crisis over Poland constitution: ‘Single market would crash’

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The French President is currently batting down calls from within his own country to turn an eye towards Poland. It comes just months before France heads to the ballots for the national elections. The row surrounds a recent Polish court ruling that challenged the legal basis of the EU.

In a controversial ruling, judges rejected the principle of the primacy of EU law over national legislation in certain judicial matters.

The Constitutional Tribunal said a selection of EU treaty articles were incompatible with Poland’s constitution.

It resulted in the EU ordering Poland to pay €1million (£851,000) a day in fines.

However, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party maintained that it would not pay the sum.

While France is not directly involved with the case, the legal process has inspired several mainstream politicians in the country.

Figures from both the left and the right are calling for France to assert its national sovereignty.

Mr Macron has been relatively quiet on the issue, with experts having told Politico he is more than aware of what the ordeal might entail for France and Brussels.

Mujtaba Rahman, managing director of the Eurasia group, spoke to several sources close to Mr Macron in an analysis for Politico last month, attempting to map out what steps he might take next.

Some said the French President is ready to defend EU “first principles” if necessary.

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Others said he is prepared to make the argument that if each member state follows in Poland’s footsteps, the EU’s single market would “collapse”.

Mr Rahman wrote: “He is ready to make the argument that the EU single market would collapse — with calamitous consequences for France — if each country was able to impose its own laws or if, as in Poland’s case, the rule of law itself was eroded.”

The author added that Mr Macron is “ready” to make the case that EU law is not “imposed” on France, and will instead say it is agreed democratically by governments in the European Council and directly elected members of the European Parliament.

Yet, officials said he is simultaneously eager not to come across as slavishly pro-EU.

Whatever the outcome, Mr Macron has a fight on his hands.

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This is because several moderate and well-respected politicians in France have got behind the essence of Poland’s court ruling.

Valérie Pécresse, leader of the Paris region, who is campaigning to be the presidential candidate of the conservative Les Républicains party in next April’s election, told journalists in October: “Europe is a Europe of nations.

“That means that our constitutional laws, our constitutional identity, each one, each sovereign state, must take precedence over European jurisdiction.”

And, former Socialist Party government minister Arnaud Montebourg, another presidential hopeful, hailed the Polish ruling: “Poland’s affirmation of its national sovereignty through the law is an important event.

“France, which doesn’t share Poland’s political leanings, will nevertheless have to carry out the same affirmation of the superiority of its laws over European decisions.”

Even Michel Barnier, a stalwart of the EU, staked out a hardline position well before the Polish ruling.

In what was perceived as a move to secure his party’s nomination for the presidential race, in September, he called for a referendum on the issue and said France must regain its “legal sovereignty” in order to no longer be subject to judgments on immigration by the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights, the latter of which is not an EU institution.

Yet, following the Polish ruling, he spoke about his concerns surrounding the outcome of it, an “irony” that Politico notes was “not lost on his opponents”.

Other French conservative politicians have also been pressuring Mr Macron and pushing for an assertion of French legal superiority.

Xavier Bertrand, another presidential hopeful from the ranks of Les Républicains, has proposed amending the French constitution to introduce “a mechanism to safeguard the superior interests of France.”

Within the ranks of the same party, Eric Ciotti, another would-be president, has made a similar proposal.

Things are made even more difficult given that France takes on the rotating Council of EU presidency in the first half of 2022, and will likely be tasked with navigating Poland’s ruling.

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