European Interest

Poland wants Brussels to halt Article 7 procedure

Flickr/Lukas Plewnia/CC BY-SA 2.0
The seat of the Tribunal, Warsaw, Poland.

Poland’s foreign minister has announced plans to modify his country’s controversial legal changes so that Brussels’ can withdraw its Article 7 procedure against Warsaw.

Speaking after Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party signalled they would implement some of the European Commission’s recommendations over sweeping changes to the country’s court system, Jacek Czaputowicz told public Polish Radio 1 that a new piece of legislation would “respond to the European Commission’s expectations”.

“We are working for the Commission to withdraw its proposal [over Article 7] and we would not want it to be put to a vote,” said the minister.

As reported by Radio Poland online, Czaputowicz told public broadcaster TVP that Poland was doing everything to make that happen.

“We need to meet [the Commission’s] expectations halfway,” Czaputowicz told TVP.

In December, the European Commission took the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, stepping up pressure on Warsaw over the controversial changes to Poland’s justice system.

In a separate report, the Financial Times noted that the new initiatives are the first concessions that Warsaw has made in its fight with Brussels over the rule of law. However, the government’s critics were quick to dismiss the changes as largely insubstantial.

Under the new proposals, the justice minister would have to consult the National Judicial Council before sacking the heads of lower courts, as opposed to being able to fire them without consultation as he can now.

The retirement age for both male and female judges would be set at 65 – rather than 60 in the case of women, a discrepancy that had drawn criticism from the European Commission.

A third new bill would require the publication of rulings by the Constitutional Tribunal from 2016, which Poland’s government refused to publish at the time in an attempt to prevent them from coming into force.

Marek Ast, the Law and Justice MP who tabled the amendments, said that the bill requiring the Constitutional Tribunal rulings to be published was to meet the “expectations of the European Commission and public opinion” but conceded that move was just a “gesture”, as the laws to which they applied were no longer in force.

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