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Poland rejects EU demands as court crisis deadline expires

Poland has rejected a plan from the EU Commission to solve the country's constitutional crisis. Failure to address concerns about rule of law and democracy could see Warsaw lose its voting rights in the bloc.

Poland's foreign minister said Friday that the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had no plans to accept the European Commission's recommendations, calling them "groundless."

"We don't agree with the one-sided interpretation made by the European Commission," Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said in an interview with Polish radio.

The right-wing populist government pushed through a series of controversial legal reforms soon after winning elections late last year. The changes have alarmed EU officials and led to anti-government protests in the country, with opposition activists accusing the PiS of trying to undermine democracy and weaken the Constitutional Court.

In July, the European Commission gave Warsaw three months to reverse its reforms or face sanctions for breaching EU standards on the rule of law and democracy. The deadline of October 27 has now passed.

What now?

Warsaw sent a letter to the Commission on Thursday, reiterating that it found the demands unjustified. A Commission spokesman said Friday the document had been received and would be carefully assessed "in due course." The body is expected to outline how it plans to proceed in the coming days.

Poland's Foreign Ministry has repeatedly objected to what it calls the EU's interference, lack of respect for "sovereignty," and "incomplete knowledge" about the Polish legal system.

The government has continued to make changes to the way the Constitutional Court functions, including a new proposal to change how the chief justice is elected. The Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog, and the European Parliament have raised concerns about the situation. In Germany, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert said Poland's actions were "the wrong approach for Europe, and therefore also for Poland."

Warsaw's failure to roll back its reforms of the top court before the deadline means Brussels can now move to suspend Poland's voting rights in the Council of Ministers, the EU's decision-making body where the bloc's 28 national governments are represented. Such a step would be unprecedented in the bloc, and would require the agreement of all 27 other member states.

nm/sms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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