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Warsaw wants report on legal changes delayed

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 03.03.2016 12:48
Warsaw has asked human rights body the Council of Europe to delay issuing a final report on legal changes in Poland, after the leak of initial findings angered the Polish foreign ministry.
Thorbjorn Jagland. Photo: Flickr.com/UN Geneva
Thorbjorn Jagland. Photo: Flickr.com/UN Geneva

But public broadcaster Polish Radio reported there was little chance of delaying the issue of the full report until June, as the Polish foreign ministry has requested.

The Venice Commission, an advisory body to the Council of Europe, visited Warsaw last month to probe whether democratic standards are being upheld by Poland. It is expected to adopt its final report on 11 March.

In a preliminary opinion, obtained by the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, the Venice Commission said an ongoing constitutional crisis in Poland poses a danger to the rule of law, democracy and human rights.

A crisis erupted following reforms of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal pushed through by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in October.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksander Stępkowski told the PAP news agency that the leak of the draft report “undoubtedly seriously undermined our trust in the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission in this matter.”

He added: “I suggested [to Council of Europe chief Thorbjorn Jagland] that he take steps to rebuild that trust. One step, we believe, is to decide to postpone work on the opinion so as to avoid an atmosphere of intensified political battle. "

Jagland, meanwhile, said it was “unfortunate” that the draft report by the Venice Commission on changes to the law on the Constitutional Tribunal “was leaked in violation of its restricted character, and that discussions are now being based on a draft opinion.”

Jagland added: “I urge all to await the final opinion, to be adopted at the formal session of the Venice Commission, and to avoid any misuse of it politically.”

His comments came after Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski wrote to Jagland, complaining that the leak of the draft Venice Commission report was used by the Polish opposition to “brutally attack the government for purely political reasons.”

Waszczykowski accused the Venice Commission of behaving “politically,” warning that it could lose its reputation for impartiality.

Recommendations issued by the Venice Commission are not binding on governments, but Brussels has said it will work closely with the body, which includes experts in constitutional and international law, in monitoring developments in Poland.

The European Commission in January launched an inquiry into whether Poland is upholding the principle of the rule of law and whether controversial legislation pushed through by the Law and Justice government violates EU standards. (pk)

Source: PAP/Polish Radio

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