Polish Lawmakers Approve Law on Court Control

21 July, 2017, 01:01 | Author: Chad Mckenzie

Then President Duda, a former member of the right-wing, populist ruling party, proposed a compromise to make it harder for a single ruling party to change the make-up of the 15-member National Council of the Judiciary.

The Law and Justice party has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system.

The Commission's Vice President Frans Timmermans said the European Union was "very close" to triggering Article 7, a sanction which has never been used before and would suspend Poland's voting rights in the council of ministers.

Last week, the ruling Law and Justice party pushed through parliament plans for MPs and the justice minister to have the power to appoint judges. Critics say the bill kills judicial independence and puts judges under political control. He also condemned the speed with which the bill was passed, saying it was done without proper public consultation.

The bill, which will now go to the upper house on Friday after being passed by 235 votes to 192, will see all Supreme Court judges forced into retirement.

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But Duda warned he won't sign the bill into law unless another controversial law, recently approved by the lawmakers and concerning appointments to a top legislative body, is amended according to his suggestions. They are the ones taking to the streets every evening in cities across the country to join candle-lit protests and appeal to the president to veto the legislation.

He said that the European Commission was planning to launch legal action against Poland next week.

Protesters in Warsaw on Thursday kicked the metal barriers that separate them from the parliament, chanting "Shame!"

"Please let us try, Mr President", he urged Duda and called on "serious partners" from Warsaw to talk with the EU.

The Commission will also prepare to start infringement proceedings against Warsaw for breaching European Union law over its plans to bring the judiciary under government control, Timmermans told reporters.

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Often described as the "atomic weapon" in the panoply of measures that can be taken by the EU against one of its members, this article may lead to a suspension of the right of voting in the Council of the european Union, the body comprising the 28 eu countries. The new person who will be appointed, the new judges will be the minister of justice of the ruling party. It calls for the dismissal of the court's current judges, except those chosen by the president.

"You are destroying the right of Poles to an independent court, destroying the foundations of freedom and parliamentary democracy", Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the centre-right opposition Civic Platform said during the parliament debate.

Poland's parliament held a second day of debate on Wednesday on a proposed law to give the government more direct control over the Supreme Court, whose tasks include validating elections in the ex-communist state.

Konrad Szymanski, Poland's deputy foreign minister in charge of European affairs, said Warsaw would defend its position, including before Europe's highest court, if necessary.

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