For the second time in three months, Poland’s government has tried to defend its changes to the judiciary. The country’s European Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski addressed a hearing of European Union ministers in Brussels on September 18.
France and Germany – the two biggest EU countries – issued a joint declaration ahead of the hearing. “On the contrary, since July 3rd and the implementation of the new retirement regime for Supreme Court judges, the situation has become more urgent than ever,” delegation sources quoted German Minister of State Michael Roth in the name of France and Germany.
The hearing is part of the bloc’s procedure, called Article 7, used against countries that violate fundamental rights and the rule of law.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, Poland’s situation echoes that of Hungary, which the European Parliament last week sanctioned for flouting EU rules on democracy, civil rights and corruption.
Poland’s government enacted laws forcing into early retirement many Supreme Court judges. Critics say it is trying to replace them with its own nominees.
As a result Poland has been suspended from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), which decided the Polish council is no longer independent because it is now appointed by politicians, rather than judges as before.
In a separate report, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) noted that Poland rejected EU criticism of its Supreme Court reforms, challenging Brussels to take its case to the bloc’s top court, after the European Commission in August gave Warsaw a month to review a law forcing the court’s judges to retire at 65.
Meanwhile, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party does not seem rattled at all by its row with the EU. At home, a new poll suggests the party would win 38% of the vote if elections were to be held this week.
Support for the ruling conservatives has gone up 2 percentage points since a similar survey in May, pollster Kantar Millward Brown SA said.