Brussels Hands Poland 1-Month Deadline to Address Judicial Reform Concerns
The European Commission stands ready to trigger fresh legal action against the Polish government despite the country’s president vetoing two out of four controversial reforms to the Polish judiciary.
Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission, said Warsaw had one month to alleviate its concerns over the rule of law before deciding on whether it would escalate proceedings.
The warning comes despite moves by Polish president Andrzej Duda to block two of his government’s judicial reform bills this week. Mr Timmermans said the approval of the remaining measures still undermined the independence of the country’s judges in defiance of EU law.
“In this past week some things have changed in Poland and some have not”, said Mr Timmermans.
Any move from Poland’s ruling Law And Justice Party (PiS) to force the resignation of the country’s judges would have the EU stand “immediately ready to trigger the Article 7 procedure”, added the commissioner.
Invocation of Article 7 of the EU’s treaties will see Poland’s EU member states asked to issue a formal warning to Warsaw – an unprecedented move that has yet to be taken against a member state government.
President Duda’s decision to block a portion of the reform bill followed mass public protests against the government’s attempt to take control of the judiciary. Of the two bills that have passed, one will hand power to Poland’s justice minister, who is also the prosecutor-general, to fire heads of the country’s lower courts.
This bill has yet to be formally enacted, meaning the commission cannot start proceedings to challenge it in court. But Brussels can “pre-authorise” a challenge in the event that any of the bills is formally enacted during the commission’s summer break.
“The Commission’s hand is still extended to the Polish authorities, in the hope of a constructive dialogue”, added Mr Timmermans.
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