Opposition leader Donald Tusk called for protests in Poland to defend Poland’s continued membership in the bloc.
A court this week challenged the rule of EU law, with huge protests being held across Poland to show support for the European Union after widening the rift with Brussels.
Thousands of people filled Castle Square on Sunday at the historic Warsaw Historic Center to protest against the right-wing nationalist government, shouting “We’re here!” And holding signs with the slogan “We are European”. There have been big protests in other cities of the country as well.
The leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has been in conflict with EU officials for the past six years because the PiS has sought greater control over the courts. The EU has seen the changes as a loss of democratic checks and balances.
Poland’s top opposition leader Donald Tusk and former EU leader Donald Tusk have called for the protests in an effort to secure Poland’s continued membership in the 27-nation bloc.
Aiming at the crowd, Task warned that a “pseudo-court” had decided to expel Poland from the EU at the behest of the ruling party leader, in violation of the constitution.
“We want an independent, law-abiding, democratic and fair Poland,” Task said before the crowd sang the national anthem.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Chalands reports from Warsaw that protesters believe “they are European and they will always be European”, but recent tensions between Warsaw and Brussels have raised fears of Polish exit from the EU, dubbed “polyxit”.
“No one is saying yet that this is a possibility, but it is certainly raising the political temperature here and in Brussels,” Chalands said.
Popular EU membership in Poland has brought new freedom of travel to Central European nations and dramatic economic changes since the end of communist rule in 1989.
Kachinsky has denied that he wants to leave Poland, although top members of the ruling party have recently used language that could be their target.
In a legal decision requested by the Polish prime minister earlier this week, a constitutional tribunal declared some articles of EU treaties “inconsistent” with its national law and unconstitutional.
Politicians across Europe have expressed frustration with the ruling, which has weakened the legal pillar of European integration on which the 27-nation EU stands.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said he was “deeply concerned” and that the EU executive leadership he was leading would do everything in its power to ensure the rule of law in the EU.
“On the one hand, no one wants to leave the EU, not even supporters of the government, on the other hand, no one seems to be able to say, ‘Stop the conflict that prevents Poland from accessing EU funds,'” Vajisic Prizbilski, editor-in-chief of the analysis and media platform Visegrad Insight, told Al Jazeera.
The EU has stopped approving 2 billion euros (26 226 billion) and cheap billion euros (39 39 billion) in cheap EU grants to help the country recover from the Covid-1 of economic downturn.
Warsaw has accused the European Union’s economic commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, of “blackmailing” the EU after warnings that the court case could affect Poland’s disbursement of epidemic recovery funds.
European Union officials said the money could be distributed next month but linked to strict rule of law.
A ruling coalition of political strife and dissident parties – some of which are in favor of holding a referendum on “Polexit” – is responsible for the wide rift between Warsaw and Brussels, Pryzibilski said.