Poland court bill: Parliament votes for judicial reforms

Posted July 21, 2017

The Commission will also prepare to start infringement proceedings against Warsaw for breaching European Union law over its plans to bring the judiciary under government control, Timmermans told reporters.

The new law passed through the lower chamber gives the nation's president the power to influence the court's work and to appoint its judges.

Tusk, former Polish prime minister, wrote in a statement Thursday that "Subjecting the court to one ruling party in the way that Law and Justice has proposed it will ruin already strained opinion on Poland's democracy".

In response, the residents of Warsaw and other major Polish cities took to the streets urging the president to veto the bill entirely.

"This is a very serious problem for Europe in terms of how it handles internal deviation from what had seemed to be a very strong consensus and agreement on respect for the rule of law", Saman Zia-Zarifi, the head of International Commission of Jurists, a Geneva-based body which defends the rule of law.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has embroiled itself in efforts to rein in judges since winning 2015's election.

"The atmosphere around Poland. these legal acts that are being worked on now will absolutely have a very negative impact on future budget talks", said Elzbieta Bienkowska, Poland's European Union commissioner who is allied with Tusk and critical of PiS.

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The second bill states that the justice minister will name the chief justices of Poland's common courts.

Following a telephone conversation with the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, on Thursday, Tusk issued a public statement calling for an urgent meeting to discuss "the unsafe consequences for Poland's standing on the world stage".

Brussels/Warsaw: The EU on Wednesday gave Warsaw a week to halt judicial reforms it said would put courts under direct government control, or face punishment for undermining democracy in the largest ex-communist member of the bloc. Last October, the parliament attempted to make the country's restrictive abortion laws even more rigid, removing exceptions for rape or the life of the mother. "It is not the intention of either the ministry of justice or the parliamentary majority to weaken the power of the judges, deputy foreign minister Konrad Szymanski was quoted as saying by the Polish news agency PAP".

Protesters were kicking the metal barriers that separate them from the parliament and chanting "Shame".

The current judges could theoretically be reinstated in the revamped court, but there is little likelihood PiS will proceed in that fashion.

On July 19, Polish lawmakers sent the bill on reorganizing the Supreme Court to a specialized commission.

The European Commission on Wednesday expressed "grave concern" for "the clear risks for the independence of the judiciary" in Poland, saying it will take legal action against Warsaw next week, in the wake of a series of judiciary bills being proposed. While PiS remains broadly popular among Poles, thousands have been protesting daily against the plans.