Defying EU Row, Polish Premier Says Courts Becoming More `Just'

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s prime minister ignored the concerns of European Union leaders over a revamp of his country’s courts, saying during a trip to Berlin that the judiciary would become more, not less independent after the changes are complete.

The European Commission has recommended unprecedented sanctions against Poland, an EU member since 2004, for failing to uphold democratic values after the ruling Law & Justice party pushed through sweeping judicial measures giving politicians more sway over courts. Premier Mateusz Morawiecki has said the dispute is mainly about “semantics” as Polish court reforms resemble those in western EU states and seek to dismantle a system he says is marred by corrupt jurists appointed during communism.

“Our goal is for Poland’s judiciary to become even more independent, transparent, fair and just,” Morawiecki told journalists in Berlin on Friday, standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I guarantee this will happen.”

Merkel said respecting the rule of law is “one of the basic commitments” made by all countries that want to become EU members. Many officials in Brussels say that EU institutions can no longer stand by and watch a country that’s the biggest net recipient of European aid flout the rule of law without paying a price, and discussions have begun about how to tie the bloc’s budget to respect for the rule of law. 

“We support the Commission in its work of holding these talks," Merkel said. "But I believe and hope that the whole thing is on the right track and that these talks will also bring progress."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.