Dutch MEP has 'sympathy' for Poland's challenge to EU supremacy
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The Polish Constitutional Court ruled on October 8 that its rules superseded EU law – a finding European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has branded “deeply concerning”. This is because EU case law rests on the principle that the bloc has supremacy over national laws. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo warned Poland: “If you want to have the advantages of being in a club… then you need to respect the rules – you can’t be a member of a club and say, ‘the rules don’t apply to me’.”
Friday marks the final day of the summit in which the 27 member states will discuss issues with Poland along with COVID-19, the energy crisis, climate change and migration.
Speaking at the EU summit on Thursday, Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki once again accused the EU of overreaching its legal mandate.
He said: “We will not act under pressure of blackmail. We are ready for dialogue.
“We do not agree with the constantly broadening range of competencies [of the EU] but we will of course talk about it, how to resolve the current dispute with understanding and dialogue.”
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Additional reporting by Maria Ortega and Monika Pallenberg.
Putin issues ultimatum to Germany as EU summit exposes bloc’s divide on energy crisis
Vladimir Putin has issued a frosty ultimatum against Germany as EU leaders clashed over solutions to the energy crisis during the final day of the EU Summit on Friday.
Jumping on clear divisions in the bloc, the Russian President blamed the gas crisis and record-high prices on the EU’s energy policy.
Russia can start supplying natural gas to Europe via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as soon as it gets the green light from Germany, Mr Putin teased.
Hungary doubles down on opposition to EU climate plans
Soaring energy prices have complicated the European debate around climate policy.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban warned the situation threatens to “kill the European middle class”.
Only ten days before the world climate conference COP26 in Glasgow, tensions are escalating over European climate policy.
Mr Orban called on the EU Commission on Thursday at the Brussels summit to “completely reconsider” its proposals- some of which were “utopian fantasies”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel had previously emphasised that the price increase had nothing to do with the climate plans and that the EU should react “prudently”.
Trust in EU plummets to 36 percent ahead of crucial French election
Demands for a ‘Frexit’ referendum in France are intensifying after the latest EU survey found only 36 percent of French respondents trust Brussels.
In France, only 36 percent of respondents said they trusted EU institutions.
A meagre 50 percent said they do not trust Brussels and 14 percent said they did not know.
Merkel and VDL fluster over bizarre handshake
In an absurdly awkward moment, German Chancellor recoiled from the handshake initiated by European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen.
The blunder appears to have arisen from confusion about the coronavirus rules at the summit.
Upon seeing Ms Merkel’s horror, Ms von der Leyen retracted immediately.
WATCH VIDEO HERE
We’re all democratically elected! Luxembourg PM shuts down Morawiecki argument
Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel has hit back at the accusation made by Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki that the EU is an undemocratic body.
Mr Bettel said: “We have received a letter from Mr Morawiecki, in which he warns about the EU saying it was an undemocratic body in Brussels with undemocratic institutions.
“I just reminded him that he is sitting at a table with us and that his government named a commissioner, that his voters voted for MEPs and that his government is also part of different minister committees at the EU level.
“Therefore I am a bit surprised about his statement. I didn’t get a response to this.
“The Commission continues to do its work and we mustn’t give up.”
‘We cannot strip migrants of their rights!’ says Luxembourg premier
The European Union has to find the right balance to tackle the Belarus migrant scheme without violating people’s fundamental rights, according to the Luxembourg premier.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel explained he was not convinced the EU was doing enough to ensure these people were being treated fairly.
He said: “All measures we take must be in line with human rights.
“We cannot simply strip people of the most fundamental rights, the right of asylum.
“An orderly migration must remain possible. We need to find the right balance.”
EU is not always treating migrants fairly, says Luxembourg premier
The prime minister of Luxembourg has expressed concern for the way people travelling across the border of Belarus are being treated.
“These people are not being treated adequately, also by various European countries, and I am convinced there is room for improvement,” Xavier Bettel told reporters in Brussels where European leaders are set to discuss migration on the second day of an EU summit.
EU could ‘build a wall’ to prevent illegal border crossings
In a measure that bears a striking resemblance to one introduced by Donald Trump, the EU is considering building a wall to prevent illegal border crossings as the migrant crisis escalates.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg explained the consideration: “We actually decided in the multiannual financial budget that we will spend more money on infrastructure measures, including at the border regions, external borders protection and what would be meant by it if not that.
“I don’t actually like the term ‘building a wall’ but we need strong and robust external border protection and yes, if Lithuania is doing what is necessary, just to ensure national sovereignty by building a fence, then why should only Lithuanian taxpayers pay for this if this actually protects all of us?
“The external borders of the Schengen area, those states also protect us with this and should therefore be able to rely on our solidarity.”
Austrian Chancellor to plead for tougher measures to combat migration
Speaking ahead of the final day of the EU Summit, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg explained that he would plead for tougher measures at Lithuania’s border to prevent illegal migration.
There are currently eight action plans on the table to combat migration.
He said: “I think it is very good it was decided to make 8 million euros from the external funds available for measures along the migration routes.
“And the second thing is external border protection. I think that those states, the front-line states of the Schengen area need our solidarity, they need our cooperation.
“For example if Lithuania needs to implement measures at the border due to the cynical policies of Lukashenko, who abuses migration, this is a hybrid weapon against the EU, then Lithuania also has to feel our solidarity.
“Today, I will plead for measures which are implemented at the border, be they drones or fences, to also be co-financed by the EU.
“The legal basis for this exists, all we need now is the political will.”
Migration to be a key topic of today, according to Austrian Chancellor
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has highlighted migration as the most pressing topic on the final day of the EU Summit.
He said: “From my point of view the most important topic today is migration. I welcome that we will focus on the external dimension, meaning the cooperation with countries of origin and transit countries.
“The last months have shown again that the migration pressure will not ease, it is even increasing.
“After Cyprus, Austria has the highest number of asylum applications per capita in 2021.
“Therefore we clearly have to counter this and for me, it is also important we clearly focus on the external border protection.”
One in three people in central Europe do not trust state institutions
Experts say central Europeans may be particularly skeptical of state institutions which has adversely impacted the uptake of the coronavirus vaccine.
A European Commission poll, the Eurobarometer, has shown that at least one person in three in most countries in the EU’s east doesn’t trust the healthcare system, compared to an EU average of 18 percent.
Media freedom and civil liberties were repressed under Communist rule and the industry was largely controlled by the state for propaganda purposes.
This legacy is now compounded by the mounting influence of populist politicians, such as Viktor Orban, who “teach people to be distrustful,” an eastern European sociologist claims.
Tomasz Sobierajski, a Warsaw University sociologist, explained: “Vaccines show that the shadow of the Soviet Union … still dominates people’s consciousness.
“Some still live in fear and distrust.”
Latvia returns to lockdown as leaders meet
As the EU leaders meet to discuss a litany of issues, including COVID-19, Latvia has become the first member state to be forced back into lockdown after restrictions were eased in summer.
The region has the European Union’s lowest vaccination rates.
Biruta Adomane, a Latvian pensioner who has got vaccinated, expressed anger at the almost 50 percent of her adult compatriots who haven’t.
She said: “I’d like to go to shops and cafes, I’d like to enjoy my life more, instead of lockdown.
“People are strange… I don’t understand their motivation”.
‘Germany does not want to have a Polexit,’ insists Merkel
Speaking at her last ever EU summit as German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has sought to cool tensions between Poland and other EU member states.
Ms Merkel said: “Germany does not want to have a Polexit. Poland’s place is in the middle of Europe.
“We must not talk about how to isolate. We must try to fix the problem.
“An avalanche of lawsuits at the ECJ won’t fix it.
“It’s the question of how the individual members envision the EU.
“Is it an ever closer union, or is it more about the nation state? And this is certainly not only an issue between Poland and the EU, but also in other member states.
“We have to find ways of coming back together.”
Poland must take ‘the necessary steps’, says Mark Rutte
Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister, has warned Poland must take “the necessary steps” to resolve the dispute about the supremacy of EU law.
He said: “I think we have to be tough but I think the question is how do you get there?
“My argument will be that the independence of the Polish judiciary is the key issue which we have to discuss and we have to settle.
“Poland has to take the necessary steps – that is non-negotiable.
“This has to do with the foundations of our democracy in this part of the world. So here we cannot negotiate.”
Von der Leyen told to withhold funding from Poland – or be sued by EU Parliament
Ursula von der Leyen is facing legal action over her dithering response to Poland disputing the supremacy of EU law.
EU Parliament chief David Sassoli said on Wednesday that he had launched legal action against the Commission over its “failure” to act on the rule of law in the ongoing row with Poland and other EU states.
The Commission has until November 2 to act, at which point the legal action will be considered by the European Court of Justice.
EU member states will be hoping to reach a resolution before this action is necessary.
What will be discussed at the EU summit?
Friday marks the final day of the EU summit which sees the 27 member states meet to discuss issues facing the bloc.
The rule of law dispute dominated the public conversation yesterday, with many leaders commenting on the situation upon entry.
Another key issue to be discussed is the challenges of vaccinating against COVID-19 as winter draws in and a new surge in infections rages.
The spike in energy prices will also be front and centre, the impact of which has been acutely felt by businesses and consumers.
With the COP26 climate conference looming, the bloc will also focus climate change solutions.
Finally, migration pressures have been weighing heavy on the EU, particularly for those neighbouring Belarus, whose leader Alexander Lukashenko is accused of trafficking migrants as a way to retaliate for EU sanctions.
Orban backs Poland in legal dispute
Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban backed Poland in the legal dispute between the nation and the EU over the supremacy of EU law.
Mr Orban said: “The fact is very clear: the primacy of EU law is not in the treaty at all, so the EU has primacy where it has competencies… what’s going on here is regularly that European institutions circumvent the rights of the national parliament and government”.
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