EU warns Poland over court reforms
PR dla Zagranicy
The European Commission on Wednesday said it was ready to take action against Poland for violating EU laws, warning that a controversial overhaul of the country's judicial system threatens the independence of courts.
Frans Timmermans. Photo: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters in Brussels that the EU’s executive arm was close to triggering the bloc's Article 7 against Poland, which could ultimately result in sanctions.
Penalties on Warsaw would have to be backed unanimously by EU member states but Hungary has said it would not support sanctions.
The European Commission on Wednesday also urged the Polish government to put its new laws on hold, voicing “grave concern about the clear risks for the independence of the judiciary in Poland."
The commission's move was the latest in a series of clashes between Brussels and Warsaw. Poland is already embroiled in a row with the EU over sweeping changes to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal and concerns about the rule of law.
Poland’s governing, conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system.
Rule of law concerns
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. PiS denies the accusations.
PiS supporters have criticised Polish courts for taking too long to hear cases, and have accused judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.
Timmermans on Wednesday noted the new set of laws on judicial changes in Poland was not yet in force, but said they would bring the judiciary under the full political control of the government.
European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani on Tuesday warned that changes to the judiciary planned by PiS “could be against the fundamental principles of the EU.”
Tomasz Poręba, a PiS member of the European Parliament, accused Timmermans of a "dishonest attack" adding that the Netherlands, the EU official’s home country, already had the same judicial appointment system in place that Poland was planning.
Poręba said Timmermans had shown he had "zero credibility" and blasted him as "an ordinary political hypocrite."