Oct 21, 2021 - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

What they're saying: European Parliament President David Sassoli accused Poland of undermining the "legal bedrock" of the EU, claiming that "never before has the Union been called into question so radically."

  • "Poland will not be intimidated," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki shot back, accusing the EU of "financial blackmail" while insisting that his country had no intention of leaving the bloc.
  • He received backing from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who remarked as he arrived at the leaders’ summit in Brussels that Poland was "the best country in Europe" and the victim of a "witch hunt."

Behind the scenes: EU officials did not take detailed notes on the Poland discussions at tonight's late-night summit and will not mention the issue in their formal conclusions, as leaders seem intent to keep any heated confrontations in "the family," according to Politico Europe.

  • Flashback: At the last summit in June, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Orbán during a tear-filled debate that Hungary should leave the EU over its controversial anti-LGBT law.

What's next: Now at her 107th and potentially final leaders’ summit, Merkel is seeking to minimize drama and the risk of losing a second EU member state as she exits the chancellery after 16 crisis-filled years:

  • "We must find ways and possibilities to come together again on this," she stressed, warning against a rush to sanctions or litigation.

Go deeper: Poland showdown is EU's Jan. 6 moment, top official says

Go deeper