Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

European Union initiates legal action against Poland over judiciary reform

Poland Bialowieza Forest A bison stands among the trees near to felled trees in the Bialowieza Forest Poland on March 24, 2017
Christy Curtis | 30 July, 2017, 00:34

People demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw after Poland's President made a statement to announce that he will veto controversial judicial reforms on July 24, 2017. Poland's deputy foreign minister for European affairs, Konrad Szymanski, told the PAP news agency that the EU decision was "unfounded", and he said the new law met legal requirements.

"The new rules allow the minister of justice to exert influence on individual ordinary judges through, in particular, the vague criteria for the prolongation of their mandates thereby undermining the principle of irremovability of judges", the statement reads.

In its letter to Warsaw, the Commission also expressed concern that the independence of the courts would be undermined by giving the minister of justice "the power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, as well as to dismiss and appoint Court Presidents". While implementing this measure, Duda vetoed two bills that would give politicians more say over the Supreme Court and a powerful judiciary council.

Despite pressure at home and overseas, President Duda this week signed numerous...

The European Union's top court has ordered Poland to immediately halt large-scale logging in an ancient protected forest, one of many cases that has pitted the nationalist, euroskeptic government in Warsaw against the bloc.

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed into law the bill on ordinary courts, but, in a move welcomed by Brussels, blocked two other bills that would have empowered the government and parliament to replace Supreme Court judges.

It said Poland's governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) had one month to respond to Commission concerns, including that "the independence of Polish courts will be undermined" by increased powers for the justice minister.

The escalating standoff with Poland threatens to deepen an east-west split in the EU.

The new law is part of a package of measures put forward by Poland's ruling conservative party to take a tighter grip on the judiciary.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans sent a letter on Friday inviting the Polish foreign minister and justice minister for a meeting in Brussels "at their earliest convenience in order to relaunch the dialogue".

The Polish government has said it authorised the logging, which began in May previous year, to contain damage caused by a spruce bark beetle infestation and to fight the risk of forest fires.

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