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European Parliament criticizes Polish government over constitutional changes

The European Parliament has joined a list of institutions to condemn the new Polish government's policies. The body said they effectively paralyze a top court and threaten Poland's democracy and rule of law.

The Council of Europe, the European Commission and the US Congress have all drawn attention to the new Law and Justice (PiS) government's changes to the constutution that have effectively sidelined the country's highest legislative court, the Constitutional Tribunal.

They all insist the government publish - and also respect - the decisions of the Constitutional Tribunal.

In December 2015 Martin Schulz (pictured above), president of the European Parliament, described the political situation in Poland as "dramatic" with the latest actions of the Polish government having the "characteristics of a coup."

The EP vote was part of European Union pressure on Poland's conservative government to find a solution to a political conflict surrounding the country's Constitutional Tribunal and recent changes to the legislation that regulates appointments of its judges. The European Parliament urged the government to unblock the court by publishing a recent ruling, something the government refuses to do.

A resolution was adopted in Strasbourg by a 513-142 vote with 30 abstentions. It is non-binding, but may pave the way for further EU procedures. The resolution stressed all EU members must observe the bloc's values and principles.

Reaction and counter-reaction

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the conservative Law and Justice party

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the conservative Law and Justice party

The resolution drew criticism from

Poland's ruling party lawmakers

, who said it misrepresented the situation in Poland and sided with Poland's opposition parties. The opposition politicians said the vote was a sign that things are going in the wrong direction under the current government.

"Perhaps for the first time we're dealing with a situation when because of (Polish) opposition politicians' denunciations the European Parliament has passed a legal act aimed against Poles, our nation," the Polish government's spokesman, Rafal Bochenek, told state news agency PAP.

Poland hosts a NATO summit in July and Polish officials hope to get the alliance to agree to increase its military presence on the bloc's eastern flank to deter aggression from Russia. Poland has for years sought a permanent NATO military presence.

jbh/bw (Reuters, AP)

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