EU ‘at risk of collapsing’ as Romania challenges supremacy of Brussels laws
The power of the European Union over its member states received a further blow on Friday night after Romania became the latest country to rule that EU treaties do not override national laws.
In a blow to the EU legal order, Romania’s Constitutional Court has challenged a second ruling by the European Court of Justice that Romanian judges should put EU law above national law.
“National constitutional courts ruling that EU law does not have supremacy over national laws is a very worrying development for the European Union,” said EU law expert Professor Gavin Barrett at University College Dublin.
Brussels has been forced to defend itself against a number of similar challenges launched by member states. The German and Polish constitutional courts have both argued that their judges should give priority to national law.
The European Commission is still at odds with Warsaw over its disregard for the supremacy of EU law, which has raised fears of a “Polexit”.
The European Commission is still at odds with Warsaw over the supremacy of EU laws, raising fears of a “Polexit”. The complaints against Berlin were dropped after the German government sent assurances that it fully supported the concept of primacy.
Warsaw leaders have dismissed claims they are trying to engineer Poland’s departure, but warn it could be kicked out of the bloc if Brussels continues to trample on the country’s sovereignty.
The country’s law and justice nationalist government has repeatedly challenged EU rules and refused to pay fines imposed by the ECJ since taking office.
A similar debate over Romania’s future membership has yet to materialize, but a poll last year found that almost 70% of Romanian citizens think leaving the EU is a price to pay to defend the national interests.
All member states agree to a treaty provision that dictates that EU law takes precedence over national law. The final arbiter of EU law is the ECJ in Luxembourg, in accordance with the accession treaties.
“Much of the power of the European Union derives from EU law which applies uniformly and effectively throughout the territory of the 27 member states. Take that away and each member state becomes a legal area where the rules relating to, for example, the single market, and criminal justice cooperation differ from place to place,” Professor Barrett told the Telegraph.
“In other words, you end up without a unified legal system, without a single market and, in effect, with a paralyzed European Union. In its own way, this development is a crisis of greater importance than Brexit. has ever been.
“The EU survived Brexit. But if the opinion spreads that supremacy no longer holds in national courts, then the EU will not survive – at least not in its current form.”
EU threatens legal action
Didier Reynders, the EU justice commissioner, could initiate legal action against Romania, given the “real, permanent and persistent position of its supreme court to go against the law of the EU or the binding nature of ECJ decisions”.
In an interview with the Financial Times, the senior eurocrat said he had not received enough assurances that Bucharest is willing to respect the bloc’s laws to replace national legislation.
“We received a reaction from the Romanian government saying, ‘No, we want to have full respect for the primacy…but within the framework of the Romanian constitution.’ So that’s not exactly the answer we received from the German government, with no strings attached,” he said.
Under Romania’s constitution, the supremacy of EU law is recognised, but when it conflicts with national law, judges are allowed to decide that national rules are superior.
This raised doubts about Bucharest’s commitment to the European project and the independence of its judiciary.
The ECJ is calling on Romania to dismantle a prosecution unit for judges, which the Luxembourg-based court said “could be seen as seeking to establish an instrument of pressure and intimidation against judges”.
Romania could follow Poland and be fined millions of euros if it refuses to comply with ECJ rulings.
But unlike Warsaw, Bucharest is already receiving payments from the EU’s €800bn coronavirus recovery fund.
Brussels is set to withhold more than 100 million euros from Warsaw to cover unpaid fines by the EU’s highest court.