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Warsaw replies to EU recommendations on rule of law

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 20.02.2017 18:00
Warsaw on Monday said it had submitted a response to European Commission recommendations issued amid concern in Brussels over the rule of law in Poland.
Photo: Flickr.com/Kancelaria Premiera Photo: Flickr.com/Kancelaria Premiera

The European Commission on 21 December said that the appointment of a new head at Poland’s top court was “fundamentally flawed” and called on Warsaw to reverse changes to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal.

The European Commission gave Warsaw two months to reply to a new set of recommendations.

That move came as President Andrzej Duda appointed a candidate backed by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party as the new head of the Constitutional Tribunal, which had been locked in a struggle with the government.

Shortly afterwards, the Commission said it considered the procedure which led to the appointment of judge Julia Przyłębska to the post as “fundamentally flawed as regards the rule of law.”

'Normal functioning'

But the Polish foreign ministry said on Monday that the appointment of a new head at Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal late last year and new rules had created "the right conditions for the normal functioning" of the court.

In Poland's reply to the European Commission’s December recommendations "we emphasized... that the consolidation of the democratic legal order in Poland, including the establishment of a stable basis for the functioning of the Constitutional Tribunal, is the overarching aim of the Polish authorities, hence any suggestions improving the work of the constitutional court are accepted with openness," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said Poland had stressed that an ongoing political dispute about the Constitutional Tribunal "cannot be the basis for formulating the claim that in Poland there is a systemic threat to the rule of law."

Rule-of-law probe

In January last year, the Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced it was starting a "rule-of-law" probe into whether laws pushed through by Poland’s Law and Justice party violate EU standards. PiS has fiercely rejected such accusations.

The probe by the European Commission could in theory lead to Brussels imposing penalties on Warsaw, but any such move would have to be backed unanimously by EU member states. Hungary has said it would not support sanctions.

Critics have accused the ruling Law and Justice party of aiming to stack the Constitutional Tribunal with PiS supporters, undermining its ability to challenge new laws.

Law and Justice argued it was unfair that a constitutional court with a majority of judges appointed under the previous parliament should be able to scupper flagship policies for which PiS secured a mandate in democratic elections in 2015.


tags: rule of law
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