One million euros a day - that is how much the restoration of the European legal order is worth to the European Court of Justice.

It is a record amount that the Danish Vice-President of the highest EU court, Lars Bay Larsen, has imposed on Poland: for every single day that the disciplinary body at the country's highest court continues to exist and its decisions continue to apply.

Experienced lawyers could not recall a comparable case on Wednesday.

But seldom has it been about so much.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

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Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

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The government in Warsaw is not only violating a specific directive or regulation of the European Union, but also the rule of law anchored in Article 2 of the EU Treaty.

And as long as this happens, the Luxembourg court and the EU Commission are convinced that not only the Polish but also the entire European legal system will be violated.

Polish opposition: government politicians personally liable

In Poland, the most important government representatives initially kept a low profile. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was in the country on Wednesday and did not comment on request. Government spokesman Piotr Müller tweeted: "The European Union is a community of sovereign states in which clear rules prevail." The distribution of powers shows that "the organization of the judiciary is the exclusive competence of the member states". The government has already announced changes in the judiciary. “The path of punishment and blackmail against our country is not the right path. That is not the model the EU should work on. "

Sharper tones came from the Ministry of Justice, whose boss Zbigniew Ziobro is considered in the government as a "falcon" and also as a political competitor to Morawiecki. "The ECJ despises and ignores the Polish constitution and the judgments of the Constitutional Court completely," said Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta. “This is a further stage in the operation, which is supposed to take away Poland's influence on its form of government.

That is usurpation and blackmail. ”Borys Budka from the largest opposition party, the Civic Platform, said that government politicians were“ personally ”liable if Poland had to pay fines. The ruling PiS has repeatedly whipped through anti-democratic laws at lightning speed; now it must also act quickly in the opposite direction. Why they hesitated now is unclear; the question arises, “whether they are so afraid of Zbigniew Ziobro”.

It is only the third time that the ECJ has fined a country to enforce an injunction. This is issued at the request of a party if the resulting legal damage is so great that the final judgment cannot be awaited. It is probably no coincidence that all three cases concern Poland during the reign of the national-conservative PiS party. In the first case, she gave in so quickly that she did not have to pay the fine of 100,000 euros a day - it was 2017, it was about deforestation in the forest of Bialowieza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The second case was only five weeks ago and concerns open-cast lignite mining in the triangle between Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.

At Prague's request, the court imposed a fine of 500,000 euros for every day the opencast mine illegally remains in operation.

Warsaw has not yet complied with this request.

"We haven't paid anything yet"

A week ago the EU Commission informed the Polish government that it would now send it requests for payment “at regular intervals”.

By Wednesday, an amount of 19 million euros had already been raised here.

The parliamentary group leader of the national conservative ruling party PiS, Ryszard Terlecki, said when asked whether Poland would now pay daily: "We haven't paid anything yet, so don't panic."

But the country cannot escape punishment like this.

In this case, EU budget law stipulates that the Commission simply deducts the money from payments from the EU budget that go to the Polish state.

If the PiS party continues to stonewall, the bill will now soar further: by 45 million euros per month, in both proceedings.

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