BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament said Wednesday it's preparing legal action against the EU's executive arm for failing to use its big guns following a Polish court decision that challenged the 27-nation bloc's legal order.
A Parliament statement said its president, David Sassoli, has asked legal services to prepare a lawsuit against the European Commission for its failure to apply a mechanism designed to protect the rule of law through cutting funds to member states.
The statement did not mention a specific country that could be targeted by the mechanism, known as the conditionality regulation. But it was published a day after EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen clashed with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki over the rule of law in a debate with MEPs. Poland joined the EU in 2004.
Von der Leyen pledged Tuesday that the recent ruling from Poland's constitutional court challenging the supremacy of EU laws won’t be left unanswered. But she did not say exactly what the bloc would do, and when.
EU lawmakers are pressing for the commission to swiftly activate the mechanism, which was adopted last December and has never been used.
After a lengthy process, it would allow the suspension of payments of EU money to a member country breaching the principles of the rule of law in a way that affects the bloc’s budget or financial interests.
Poland, along with fellow EU member Hungary, have challenged the mechanism at the Court of Justice of the European Union. A French official said Wednesday it would be logical to wait until a ruling by the court of justice has been issued before activating the mechanism. The official spoke anonymously in accordance with EU practice.
The Parliament said it will withdraw the legal proceeding if the Commission “takes the necessary measures."
“EU member states that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds," Sassoli said. “Last year, Parliament fought hard for a mechanism to ensure this. However, so far the European Commission has been reluctant to use it."
He added that the bloc is built on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. "If these are under threat in a member state, the EU must act to protect them," Sassoli said.