Poland Says Path to Ending EU Standoff Over Courts Is Still Hazy

(Bloomberg) -- The Polish government gave its clearest indication in weeks that it’s still far from finding a solution to its two-year standoff with the European Union over democratic values.

“We want a compromise but it’s too early to say if it will be reached and how it could be shaped,” Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters on Monday, standing next to European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, who came to Warsaw to discuss progress in ending the unprecedented dispute.

Last month, Poland’s ruling party offered concessions aimed at resolving the conflict by rolling back some contested elements of previous judicial overhauls. These include the government’s failure to publish, and hence make binding, the rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal, giving the justice minister the right to dismiss court presidents without consultations and setting a different retirement ages for male and female judges.

Earlier on Monday, Czaputowicz’s deputy, Konrad Szymanski, said the EU conflict may end within weeks or months following a charm offensive in Brussels. Instead, Timmermans said that while he hopes for a quick resolution, the EU will monitor work on Poland’s latest revamps and evaluate their impact once the laws are implemented.

“It’s not about Poland’s right to reform its judiciary,” Timmermans said. “It’s whether the essence of their reform will keep checks and balances as well as judicial independence, in line with EU treaties.”

Lets Pre-Agree

Czaputowicz said that Poland’s ruling Law & Justice party wants to agree on with Brussels exactly what changes it must make to the justice system for the commission to drop the threat of suspending the country’s voting rights under Article 7 of the EU treaty.

”Poland’s parliamentary majority is concerned that it may have to continue offering more and more concessions, which won’t be considered satisfactory by the EU,” the country’s top diplomat said. “It’s better to pre-agree on a package of measures to be implemented.”

Poland’s concessions are “cosmetic” and won’t turn back the clock on massive changes to the country’s justice system over the past two years, ombudsman Adam Bodnar said. In an editorial in Politico published on Monday, he called on Europe to use the tools it has in its arsenal to pressure the government and “save Poland from darkness.”

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