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Polish MPs back controversial legal changes

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 20.07.2017 17:01
Polish MPs on Thursday passed controversial legal changes under which judges on the country’s Supreme Court can be forced to retire.
Protesters outside parliament in Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Bartłomiej ZborowskiProtesters outside parliament in Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Bartłomiej Zborowski

The opposition warned that the MPs’ decision, which followed a stormy debate, undermined judicial independence.

But Poland’s governing, conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system.

After hearing that the Supreme Court bill got a majority of votes in parliament, some of the protesters who have been gathered outside parliament since the weekend lined up against police barriers, lay on the ground, and cried “Shame” and “The Parliament is ours, not yours!”

‘Black’ day for Poland

Just before the vote, Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of Poland’s main opposition party, the Civic Platform, said Thursday was a “black” day for Poland.

“You are destroying Poles’ right to an independent court, you are destroying the foundations of freedom, of parliamentary democracy,” he told Law and Justice MPs.

PiS supporters have criticised Polish courts for taking too long to hear cases, and have accused judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.

PiS spokeswoman Beata Mazurek said: "In our opinion these solutions are right and they will lead to the justice system functioning efficiently, fairly, and Poles who go to the judiciary will feel that something has changed in these courts and they will be in favour of the weak."

She added: "We hope the reform is accepted by the president because that is what we promised in our election campaign".

Warning from EU

The European Commission on Wednesday said it was ready to take action against Poland for violating EU laws, warning that a controversial overhaul of the country's judicial system threatens the independence of courts.

The commission also urged the Polish government to put its new laws on hold.

The commission's move was the latest in a series of clashes between Brussels and Warsaw. Poland is already embroiled in a row with the EU over sweeping changes to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal and concerns about the rule of law.

Thousands took to the streets at the weekend in opposition to the proposed judicial changes in Poland, accusing Law and Justice of aiming to stack courts with its own candidates and to dismantle the rule of law. PiS denies such accusations.


Source: PAP

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