Warsaw - Poland's Constitutional Court has issued a ruling that experts say could threaten the country's membership of the European Union as well as its funding from the bloc.
Here are some key questions to explain the ruling:
- How did the ruling come about?
The case was originally brought to Poland's top court by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. In March, Morawiecki asked the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the Polish constitution should have primacy over EU law or the other way round.
The request followed a series of EU court rulings against judicial reforms in Poland pushed through by the governing right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party.
These reforms include a new disciplinary system for judges which the EU believes undermines the independence of the judiciary.
Poland has said it is needed to root out corruption.
Poland has defied an EU ruling to shut down its "disciplinary chamber" for judges and the European Commission has in turn asked the EU's Court of Justice to issue fines against Poland.
- What does the ruling say?
The ruling challenges the primacy of EU law over Polish law in some cases by declaring parts of the EU treaties "incompatible" with the country's constitution.
It takes issue with Article 1, which establishes the existence of the European Union as a body "on which the member states confer competences to attain objectives they have in common".
It also questions Article 19, which sets out the powers and composition of the EU's Court of Justice.
Finally, the ruling states that EU institutions should not "act beyond the scope of their competences" by interfering with Poland's judicial reforms and warns that some EU Court of Justice rulings could be "removed from Poland's legal order".
European Commission vows to 'uphold' EU principles in Poland row
- What happens now?
The ruling has yet to be officially published and therefore has no legal force for the moment. If and when it is implemented, it could have far-reaching implications since multiple Polish courts could begin ignoring parts of EU law.
Analysts have said the government will move cautiously, however, as it is concerned about losing out on tens of billions of euros (dollars) in EU pandemic recovery funds.
Alberto Alemanno, a professor of European law at HEC Paris, said he believed there would "soon be a de-escalation since it is unsustainable from an electoral point of view to be considered responsible for blocking these sums of money".
An actual departure from the European Union would require a formal notification from the Polish government -- something that is at this stage extremely unlikely since opinion polls indicate around 80 percent support for EU membership in Poland.
Withdrawal from the European Union