We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.

November 22, 2018

Warsaw submits to ECJ in conflict over supreme court

All eyes in the eurozone are on the conflict between Brussels and Rome, but there is arguably another big tug-of-war about the limits on national parliamentary sovereignty that is just as important and groundbreaking. This is the one pitting Brussels against Warsaw. This week, the Polish government decided to obey an injunction by the European Court of Justice, and to suspend the forced retirement of some of its Supreme Court judges by securing the passage of a new law to that effect.

This does not mean that the conflict over Warsaw's planned judicial reforms is over. The ECJ still has to hand down its final ruling, and the European Commission had requested that Poland drop or modify other parts of the reform. The Commission charges the Law and Justice party with seeking to establish political control over the judiciary to a degree incompatible with the EU’s fundamental values. But the government’s decision to submit to the ECJ's injunction, despite continuing to dispute the validity of the Commission's criticism, means that it is bowing to EU supremacy over an area as essential to Polish statehood - and to the political agenda of Poland’s parliamentary majority - as the functioning of its Supreme Court.

We had already noted that a conflict over the limits of state judicial sovereignty is a classic moment in the formation of a federal power. Warsaw’s submission - or not - to EU authority and the ECJ’s writ would mark an important watershed in the constitutional formation of the EU. After this week’s decision, we know how the chips have fallen. The old pattern continues to hold, in that important crisis moments crucial to the EU’s cohesion and stability lead sooner or later to a strengthening of EU authority over the constituent states and their parliamentary majorities. We note in passing that the groundbreaking character of the conflict over Poland’s judicial reforms, and in particular the ECJ’s role in it, is under-reported in much of the media. 

Instead, distinguished columnists like Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today continue to opine that the EU has become too insensitive and brittle – whatever that means - and must quite soon degenerate or disintegrate, as did all earlier attempts at grand continental settlements in European history.

What such analysis misses is the point that, ironically, is perhaps seen most clearly by passionate europhobes. The EU is not a brittle concert of nations, but it is slowly emerging as a federal power. The failure to grasp this fact is the single biggest cause of much flawed analysis and of many political miscalculations that have followed.

Show Comments Write a Comment

November 22, 2018

Is the roadblock movement setting the scene for Le Pen?

What to expect from this spontaneous protest movement in France, those roadblockers with their yellow traffic vests? The movement seems to have slowed down, as only 10,000 took to the streets yesterday. But they become more targeted with their road blocks, focusing on logistical centres and commercial areas. Transport organisations are already complaining that the costs of the roadblocks are significant. Are the protesters taking a pause before gearing up for their next big day in Paris this Saturday? Some 31,000 declared on Facebook that they are going, some 200,000 clicked interested in going. The gathering won't be illegal, says the government, but it cannot take place at Place de la Concorde as envisaged: a more secure place has to be found. 

Many observers find it hard to classify this protest phenonemon in its historical and sociological context. This grassroot movement is not driven or highjacked by extremists as some news footage might suggest. Political parties on the left and right tried to put their labels on it, but they won't stick. There is no common identity, no anti-immigration profile, no common position on environmental policies. There is no revolutionary undercurrent, no popular front. You cannot even classify them as internet users, since non-users have been spotted among them too.

The demographer Hervé Le Bras found that most of the road blocks last Saturday happened in small towns and rural areas where commerce is dying, public service rationalised, and people are most adamantly calling for a tax reduction. The sociologist Vincent Tiberj pins them down as the lower-middle class, who earn enough to pay taxes but not enough to live comfortably. It is also a question of lifestyle, people choosing to live in rural areas with a detached house and a garden, and with the car as the preferred means of transport.

It is clear that we have not seen the end of this movement yet. Its diversity and lack of common purpose makes it unpredictable. It may inflame people's minds like a fever just to die off eventually. To watch out for is Marine Le Pen. She is measuring her words, not so much to side with the protesters but to harvest their angst and frustration, writes Cécile Cornudet. It could become her platform to re-enter the stage.

Show Comments Write a Comment

November 22, 2018

May’s double bluff is doing the job - for now

We have argued from the beginning that the UK parliament is delusional in thinking that it can run the Brexit negotiations from the backseat. Even if MPs never read it, Article 50 itself has become the backseat driver of British politics.

Theresa May is carrying out her single-minded mission with admirable clarity, if not brutality. The right is incensed that her government keeps on repeating that no Brexit would be the main consequence of a rejection of her Brexit deal. We doubt that May would ever do the things needed to undo Brexit - initiate legislation to repeal the repeal of the EU Communities Act, to amend the EU notification of withdrawal act, to allow for a new referendum; and a resolution to ask the European Council for an extension of the Brexit deadline. 

But simply by raising the perceived probability of a Brexit reversal from zero to, say, 5%, can do wonders. Pro-Brexit Tory MPs now fear they may not be able to force a no-deal Brexit simply by voting down May's deal. And if you just look at the headlines in the Brexit-supporting Daily Telegraph you see the sense of outrage among their commentators. One talked of treason and revenge, another of culpable naivety. They are realising they won’t be getting the Brexit they wanted. And they are also shocked that they are simply not able to remove her.

We would not be surprised if May ended up using the opposite tactic to pull over some pro-Remain Labour MPs, too. This is why she is framing her warning the way she does: deal, no-deal, no-Brexit. This creates the maximum degree of uncertainty. But we would also note that a strategy of smokes and mirrors, useful as it is for now, is by definition not sustainable. You cannot have a no-deal Brexit and no-Brexit outcomes simultaneously. Parliamentary arithmetic suggests that May first needs to minimise the Tory rebellion - to cut it to 20 or so - and then turn to wavering Labour MPs. She cannot take no-deal Brexit off the table completely. 

Yesterday, she held talks with Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels that will now be followed up by a final marathon of the principal negotiators on both sides. Their task is to finalise the political declaration. The meeting went as well as could be expected, the FT reports. The fact the two did not finalise the outstanding issues is unsurprising, given the technical complexities. The Gibraltar issue remains a headache, but we doubt very much that it will end up frustrating a Brexit agreement.

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.


Recent News

  • September 17, 2018
  • About the new partnership between Russia and China
  • EU ponders Irish backstop protocol to help May
  • February 07, 2018
  • A short note on bitcoin
  • July 04, 2017
  • On the CDU’s programme
  • Macron defines his presidential style
  • Why do we criticise modern macro?
  • November 28, 2016
  • And now what Monsieur Fillion?
  • The inescapable logic of an interim agreement
  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • April 01, 2019
  • Meaningful IV
  • Caputová elected: a turning point for central Europe?
  • October 02, 2018
  • Whatever it takes - diesel version
  • Is Macron's European discourse too simplistic?
  • April 06, 2018
  • Schleswig Holstein collapses Spain's strategy against Catalan separatism
  • On the implausibility of conspiracy theories in the Skripal case
  • October 09, 2017
  • UK is starting to prepare for a no-deal Brexit
  • Why Germany will resist meaningful eurozone reform
  • April 12, 2017
  • Macro in a state of denial
  • Where Schulz is vulnerable
  • Schäuble’s three party tricks
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • January 31, 2019
  • EU will play hardball until February 14, and stick to backstop beyond
  • French left and right moves ahead of EP elections
  • Tighten the belts as the economy prepares for landing
  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • May 21, 2018
  • Another snap election in the UK? Tories are preparing
  • Merkel and Putin - the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
  • January 15, 2018
  • Is the section on Europe for real?
  • Can Drahos upset Zeman?
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 23, 2016
  • Sarkozy launches candidacy in a book
  • Rajoy plans to try again in October
  • Turkey recalls ambassador from Austria
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 01, 2019
  • The questions we will be asking tomorrow
  • What category of diplomatic accidents is Sea Watch 3?
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • May 22, 2019
  • Better start those no-deal preparations right now
  • Europe's real transfer union is from east to west
  • May 03, 2019
  • The pro-Brexit message from the local elections
  • Putin's silk road
  • April 17, 2019
  • Why it is far from clear that the grand coalition will survive the year
  • Macron's chance and challenge
  • Eurozone firms' surprising response to sagging profits
  • The result of Spain's elections, a riddle wrapped in mystery
  • The MMT debate is coming to Europe - and Germany
  • Greek parliament seeks German war reparations
  • April 02, 2019
  • Meaningless II
  • What will come out of the grand débat?
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • March 04, 2019
  • Macron's two-month sprint
  • May's numbers are not there yet
  • Greening QE
  • On the "hope" of a rate raise
  • February 18, 2019
  • How the splits on the left and the right will affect Brexit
  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • January 24, 2019
  • A gilets-jaunes list for the European elections?
  • Let's take "off-the-table" off the table
  • Why Italy's centrist parties gain no traction
  • January 14, 2019
  • Our Brexit predictions
  • 1789 - Macron's version
  • Tsipras calls confidence vote after Kammenos pulls out
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • December 18, 2018
  • The secret plots behind the no-confidence motions
  • December 12, 2018
  • 48 letters
  • A sense of deja-vu
  • December 07, 2018
  • Fears that French protests could escalate this weekend
  • Another year for Leo Varadkar
  • Can Nord Stream 2 still be stopped?
  • December 03, 2018
  • French protests coming to a head this week
  • The Galileo fiasco, an ill omen for the future UK-EU relationship
  • November 29, 2018
  • There are still a few options left for May
  • Berlin and Paris offer to mediate after Azov Sea incident
  • November 26, 2018
  • Two German plus two Dutch makes four spitzenkandidaten
  • Yellow vest protests - radicalisation and new political alliances
  • November 23, 2018
  • Why this deal is very likely to be approved - in the end
  • What to make of the political declaration
  • The EU's spy school is no laughing matter