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Polish president steps in amid tensions over judicial changes

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 18.07.2017 18:19
Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday he has submitted a bill that would make it more difficult to introduce changes to the judiciary amid a row over reforms that has seen thousands taking to the streets.
Andrzej Duda. Photo: PAP/Jacek TurczykAndrzej Duda. Photo: PAP/Jacek Turczyk

In a surprise move, Duda said he has put forward a bill under which parliament would select judges to an influential judicial ethics supervisory council with a three-fifths majority.

Duda also said that unless his bill was passed by MPs, he would not sign into law another government-backed bill on appointments to the Supreme Court.

A bill supported by Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party and recently passed by parliament would give the country's ruling conservatives powers to appoint judges to the influential National Council of the Judiciary (KRS).

The Law and Justice party, from which Duda hails, has a majority in the lower house but does not command a three-fifths majority. To achieve that number, PiS would need the support of the opposition Kukiz '15 grouping and of a handful of unaffiliated and other deputies.

Judicial reforms are needed in Poland but “reforms should be wise and reforms should be carried out peacefully,” Duda said in a special, firmly-worded address on Tuesday.

He added that his bill “aims to prevent... one thing: claims that the National Council of the Judiciary is politicized by just one party and therefore act on political orders. There cannot be such an impression in Polish society.”

The Law and Justice party has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system.

But thousands took to the streets at the weekend in opposition to the proposed changes, accusing Law and Justice of aiming to stack courts with its own candidates and to dismantle the rule of law.

European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani earlier on Tuesday warned Duda that changes to the judiciary planned by PiS “could be against the fundamental principles of the EU.”

Meanwhile, Thorbjoern Jagland, the Secretary General of human rights body the Council of Europe, voiced concern about planned changes to Poland’s Supreme Court.


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