Polish Ruling Party Proposes Rules to Reinstate Top Court Judges

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s ruling Law & Justice Party appeared to back down in its clash with the European Union, submitting legislation to reverse the forced retirement of Supreme Court judges that has triggered an unprecedented suit against a member state for eroding the rule of law.

The European Commission is suing the bloc’s biggest ex-communist member as it struggles to contain populist forces from Rome to Budapest that are challenging its liberal values. While the nationalist government in Poland has argued that its changes to the top court don’t undermine its independence, the European Court of Justice ordered the government to "immediately suspend" the contested measures last month.

Key Insights
  • Law & Justice’s draft legislation seeks to address constitutional concerns in connection with rules that forced about two-fifths of Supreme Court justices to retire, lawmakers said in a draft posted on parliament’s website.
  • The draft addresses criticism of the European Union and the lawsuit against Poland for breaching judicial independence.
  • The bill follows Oct. 21 local elections in which the ruling party won a smaller-than-expected victory -- a warning sign before general elections next year and a presidential ballot in 2020.
  • “We’ve always claimed we respect rulings of the top EU court and to implement it we need legislative changes,” Law & Justice lawmaker Marek Ast tells reporters in parliament.
  • The submission marks a U-turn in Poland’s position on the issue amid a widening corruption probe in the banking industry.

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