Poland should not remain a member of the European Union at all costs, the justice minister said in an interview published on Friday, as he railed against what he called “blackmail” from the bloc over Poland’s judicial reforms.
The comments come as tensions between Warsaw and Brussels are intensifying, with a long-running dispute over the rule of law coming to a head as Poland faces an Aug. 16 deadline to implement an EU top court ruling or potentially face financial penalties.
“I am a staunch opponent of succumbing to the illegal blackmail of the European Union carried out by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU),” Zbigniew Ziobro told Rzeczpospolita daily.
“The belief that the EU is a good uncle and gives us money, and that we should accept all its demands at all costs, is propaganda and false,” he said, adding that Poland should be in the EU, but not at any cost.
Ziobro, leader of an arch-conservative junior partner in Poland’s ruling coalition, is the architect of the judicial overhaul that has set Poland on a collision course with Brussels, which says Warsaw is undermining the independence of courts in the bloc’s biggest eastern member.
The European Commission has said Poland must implement a CJEU ruling ordering the country to disband a disciplinary chamber for judges critics say has become politicised.
On Thursday the head of Poland’s Supreme Court partially froze the chamber.
Poland’s ruling United Right coalition is deeply split over how to react to Brussels’ ultimatum.
Its more moderate wing has called for compromise while Ziobro’s United Poland party says the reforms are necessary to stop some judges believing they are above the law.
Asked whether United Poland would remain in the coalition if Poland accepted the CJEU ruling Ziobro said there were “limits to compromise”.
Surveys show an overwhelming majority of Poles favour EU membership. Nevertheless, a recent poll carried out for Rzeczpospolita showed that 17% of Poles favoured leaving the bloc, an increase on previous surveys.