‘Polexit’ fears spark large pro-EU protests across Poland

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Large protests were held across Poland on Sunday to show support for the European Union after the country’s constitutional court this week ruled that the Polish constitution trumps some laws in the ‘EU.

Critics of the right-wing nationalist government fear the court ruling will lead to “Polexit”, or Poland being forced out of the EU due to an apparent rejection of the bloc’s laws and values.

Thousands of people in Warsaw filled the Castle Square in the historic center, some chanting: “We are staying! “

Donald Tusk, the main opposition leader in Poland and former EU leader, had urged Poles to come forward, presenting the protest as an effort to defend Poland’s continued membership in the 27-nation bloc. Addressing a crowd in Warsaw, he expressed satisfaction at the sight of thousands of protesters.

Tusk has strongly denounced the actions of the ruling party led by leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which has been in conflict with the EU for six years as his party seeks better control of the courts. The EU sees the changes as an erosion of democratic checks and balances.

EU membership is extremely popular in Poland, having brought new freedom to travel and dramatic economic transformation to the central European nation, which had undergone decades of communist rule until 1989.

Addressing the crowd, Tusk warned that a “pseudo tribunal, a group of people dressed in judge’s robes and on the orders of the party leader, in violation of the Polish constitution, has decided to take our homeland out of the country. ‘EU’.

“After all, we know very well why they want to leave the European Union, in fact in order to violate citizens’ rights with impunity, to violate democratic principles and to steal without restraint,” Tusk said.

A far-right leader led a small group of counter-protesters who sought to hush up the words of Tusk and other speakers, including a 94-year-old woman who fought in the anti-Nazi resistance in World War II.

Kaczynski has denied that he wants Poland to leave the bloc, although key members of the ruling party have recently used language suggesting that this could be their goal.

Jacek Sasin, a prominent member of the ruling party, called Polexit’s idea “the invention of a weak opposition that has no other ideas”.

The state broadcaster, spokesperson for the ruling Law and Justice party, did not show the large crowds and carried the headlines which read “Protest Against Polish Constitution” and “Tusk Attacks Polish Sovereignty”.

Large demonstrations also took place in other Polish cities.

Lech Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to the Polish Communist regime, addressed a crowd in Gdansk to applause. Walesa is a frequent critic of the government, which he accuses of destroying many of Poland’s democratic achievements.

The court ruling, which was handed down on Thursday by a court largely loyal to the nationalist government, marks a challenge to the rule of law in the EU. The prime minister called for the review after the European Court of Justice ruled in March that new Polish regulations for the appointment of Supreme Court judges could violate EU law and ordered the right-wing government to suspend them .

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