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Pro-European Union rallies draw tens of thousands in Poland

AFP

clock 2 min read

Former EU chief Donald Tusk, center, speaks with Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, second left, at EU summit in Brussels, October 18, 2019.
AP / Frank AugsteinFormer EU chief Donald Tusk, center, speaks with Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, second left, at EU summit in Brussels, October 18, 2019.

Former EU chief Donald Tusk rallies demonstrators amidst the prospect of a 'Polexit'

Tens of thousands of Poles rallied on Sunday in defense of their country's European Union membership, after Poland's top court last week issued a landmark ruling against the primacy of EU law.

The pro-EU demonstrations were called by former EU chief Donald Tusk, now leader of the country's main opposition group Civic Platform, who has warned of the prospect of a "Polexit."

"Tens of thousands of people in Warsaw and in over 100 cities and towns across Poland have come to protest what this government is doing to our homeland," Tusk told a massive crowd in Warsaw awash with the EU's star-studded blue flags.

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Membership of the bloc remains very popular according to opinion polls, but relations between Warsaw and Brussels have become strained since the populist Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015.

A wide-ranging reform of the judiciary wanted by PiS is the main bone of contention, which the European Union fears will undermine judicial independence and roll back democratic freedoms.

The latest twist in the long-running dispute was the ruling on Thursday from Poland's Constitutional Court, a body which government opponents say is stacked with PiS allies and therefore illegitimate. The ruling challenged the primacy of EU law over Polish law in all cases by declaring key articles in the EU treaties "incompatible" with the Polish constitution. 

"I'm here because I'm afraid we'll leave the EU. It is very important, especially for my granddaughter," Warsaw resident Elzbieta Morawska, 64, told AFP.

Protesters lit up a central square with their mobile phones, sang the national anthem, and chanted "We're staying!"

The uproar from Polish citizens comes not long after the government's recent call for a state of emergency.