Poland Blinks in Row With EU With Vow to Change Court Reform
(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s government promised to change justice reform measures that the European Union’s top court ruled infringes on the bloc’s standards regarding judicial independence and the rule of law.
The dispute is at the center of a tussle in which the EU is considering slashing aid to Poland over democratic backsliding and follows the nationalist government’s loss of its parliamentary majority last week.
In a letter to the EU’s executive delivered just before a one-month deadline expired on Monday, Poland said it plans to draft new regulations regarding a disciplinary system for judges, according to a statement on the government’s website.
Last month, the EU court said the current system may be used “to exert political control over judicial decisions or to exert pressure on judges.”
In its reply, the government said it intends to continue to overhaul the courts and repeated that the EU has no jurisdiction to interfere in how the country runs its justice system. But it did agree to rearrange its disciplinary regime for judges.
“Poland will continue judicial reforms, including in the area of judges’ responsibility, to improve the effectiveness of this system,” it said in the letter to the commission. “In this context, plans to dissolve the Disciplinary Chamber in its current form were announced.”
European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that the EU executive would analyze the response before deciding further steps.
The next phase of judicial reforms is due to start in the coming months. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is betting on big infrastructure projects, partly financed with EU funds, to help his government stay in power, a plan that would be hit hard if the bloc cuts financing.
His ruling coalition is also on the back foot after a pro-business party left the government last week, raising the chance that radical, anti-EU forces may have a greater say in Poland’s next moves.
The government’s loss of its majority also strengthens the hand of hard-line Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who drafted the country’s contested court reforms and this month broached the topic of Poland leaving the EU.
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