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Warsaw unveils judicial reforms to secure EU funds

13.01.2024 13:30
Poland’s Justice Ministry on Friday outlined a bill aiming to rectify the procedure for appointing judges as an initial step in reversing a judicial overhaul implemented by the previous nationalist government.
Justice Minister Adam Bodnar during a news conference at the Ministry of Justice,  Warsaw, January 12.
Justice Minister Adam Bodnar during a news conference at the Ministry of Justice, Warsaw, January 12. Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak

The objective is to unlock EU funds that were frozen due to longstanding disagreements with Brussels over Poland's court reforms and rule of law.

Following the October 15 election, pro-EU parties secured a majority, bringing an end to eight years of  nationalist rule.

The new government, led by former European Council president Donald Tusk, is committed to restoring access to the frozen funds.

A critical aspect of this effort revolves around the appointment of judges, a process criticised for being politicised under the former administration.

The European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the EU have identified irregularities in this procedure.

Now, the proposals unveiled by Justice Minister Adam Bodnar suggest that members of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS) should be appointed by fellow judges, excluding those nominated by the previous Council.

"In our opinion, such a bill is consistent with the constitution and international treaties applicable to Poland ... and it will meet standards resulting from ECHR and CJEU verdicts," said Deputy Justice Minister Dariusz Mazur.

The legitimacy of judge appointments under the previous nationalist administration has cast doubt over the functioning of the courts.

Judges appointed at the time argue, however, that challenging their status would be illegal and exacerbate the existing chaos.

In an interview with Polish Radio on Thursday, European Commission Vice-President, Vera Jourova spoke favorably of Bodnar’s bill aimed to unlock the national recovery plan.

Nevertheless, she declined to anticipate Andrzej Duda’s position regarding his greenlighting of the judicial bills.

Duda is an ally of the nationalist opposition and supporter of an aborted judicial overhaul that critics say undermined the independence of the courts and threw the whole system into disarray. By all accounts, he may not be willing to cooperate with the new government, which would leave the country in a political turmoil following a shift of power after October's election.

Poland is entitled to nearly 60 billion euro from the EU's post-pandemic recovery fund, including some 35 billion in loans and over 25 billion in grants. So far, Poland has received the first tranche, for green energy, worth 5 billion euro.



Source: PAP