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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

European Commission ‘has no right to interfere in our judicial system’: Polish official

04.12.2020 07:30
The European Commission "has no right to interfere in our judicial system," a senior Polish official has said in response to the latest move by Brussels in a protracted row over legal changes in his country.
Ryszard Terlecki, a senior politician and lawmaker with Polands ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.
Ryszard Terlecki, a senior politician and lawmaker with Poland's ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.Photo: PR24/RB

Ryszard Terlecki, a senior lawmaker with Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, was speaking after the European Union’s executive on Thursday stepped up its pressure on Warsaw over alleged rule-of-law breaches.

"The European Commission has no right to interfere in our judicial system," Terlecki told reporters, as quoted by public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency.

His remarks followed an announcement by the EU executive that it was moving to follow up on an infringement procedure against Poland to protect the independence of the country’s judges.

'New grievance to infringement procedure'

The European Commission said on Thursday it has decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Poland regarding the continued functioning of a disciplinary chamber within the country’s Supreme Court.

The latest move adds “a new grievance to the infringement procedure” started in April against Poland regarding legislative changes affecting the country’s judiciary, the Commission said.

It added in a statement that, in its “additional Letter of Formal Notice, the Commission considers that Poland violates EU law by allowing the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court – the independence and impartiality of which is not guaranteed – to decide on further matters which directly affect judges.”

According to the Commission, “these matters include cases for the lifting of immunity with a view to holding judges criminally responsible or possibly detaining them."

The Polish government has one month to reply to the additional Letter of Formal Notice, the EU executive also said.

Long-standing feud over alleged rule-of-law breaches

The European Commission on April 29 opened a fresh legal case against Poland over disputed new rules to discipline judges.

Poland’s parliament had voted through the measures in January, dismissing claims by critics that the legislation could undermine judicial independence.

The European Commission said in April it was starting a formal infringement procedure and giving Poland two months to address its concerns about the new disciplinary regime, which it said could be used to punish judges critical of government changes to the judiciary.

Věra Jourová, the deputy head of the European Commission in charge of upholding the EU’s democratic values, was quoted as saying at the time that “there are clear risks that the provisions regarding the disciplinary regime against judges can be used for political control of the content of judicial decisions.”

Polish government spokesman in December last year criticised an “off the mark” appeal by the European Commission for politicians in Warsaw to hold off from adopting the controversial law.

At the end of last year protests were held in dozens of cities across Poland by demonstrators critical of the planned legal changes, which critics say could enable politicians to remove dissenting judges.

Under the law, put forward by deputies from the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), judges could face penalties for challenging the appointment of those of their peers who took up their posts after the conservatives came to power.

Some of the proposals were later modified during parliamentary work.

Polish judicial system 'deeply flawed': PM

Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in late 2015 and won a second term in power in October last year, has argued that broad changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system marred by communist holdovers.

The changes have triggered a series of clashes between Warsaw and Brussels.

The EU’s top court in April ordered Poland to immediately suspend a disciplinary chamber within its Supreme Court that critics have said could punish judges for their decisions.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in 2017 that his country’s judicial system was “deeply flawed” and that his ruling conservatives were elected with a mandate to overhaul it.

(gs/pk)

Source: IAR