In a televised address on Monday, after the president vetoed two of three recently-passed, government-backed bills to overhaul the judiciary, Prime Minister Beata Sydło Szydło said she wanted dialogue and cooperation but would not back out of plans to change the justice system.
She said that all judges “who are behind current bad practice … or allow them” have to go, that judges cannot be protected by immunity and should answer for their crimes, and that citizens should have power over the courts.
This was largely echoed by the president who addressed the nation twice on Monday, both times saying change was necessary and that many people had been wronged by the current justice system.
But he said unrest at home meant a different approach to reform was needed, while Szydło said talks could lead to a stalemate.
“We are open to discussion on details,” Szydło said, “but we cannot give in to pressures from the streets and abroad”.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Poland over the last week to protest at the government’s planned changes to the judicial system and calling for the president to veto them.
The European Parliament, European Commission and several European leaders criticised the planned reforms.
Poland's ruling conservatives have said that sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.
A Supreme Court reform bill, passed by both houses of Polish parliament last week, would have forced the court's existing justices into retirement while giving the president powers to choose who to reinstate.
A bill to change a powerful judges' ethics council would have seen the terms of 15 of its members who are judges phased out and their successors selected by parliament – rather than by other judges as up to now.
A third bill – which a spokesman for the president said on Monday the president would sign into law – changes the way the heads of district and appeals courts are appointed and dismissed, giving more power to the justice minister, and making the allocation of cases to judges random.
Grzegorz Schetyna, head of the Civic Platform (PO), Poland’s largest opposition party, said the president should also veto the third bill. (vb)