Poland agrees to minor changes to planned judicial reforms in response to EU criticisms | News | DW | 22.03.2018
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Poland agrees to minor changes to planned judicial reforms in response to EU criticisms

The opposition dismissed the changes as "a lie" and warned the EU against accepting the "cosmetic changes." The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had resisted any concessions for months before Thursday's announcement.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party will modify plans to shake up the country's judiciary that have been criticized by the European Union, a PiS lawmaker said on Thursday.

The EU's executive arm, the European Commission, has threatened to sanction Poland if it fails to back-track on plans Brussels has said would threaten the independence of the Polish judiciary.

Read more: EU urges Poland to respect judicial reforms deadline or face Article 7 sanctions

What we know so far:

Lawmaker Marek Ast announced the modifications. They include:

  • The justice minister would first seek the opinions of judges before dismissing a court president. The initial plan would have allowed the justice minister to remove court presidents without a secondary opinion or review. It also would not have required the minister to provide a legal justification for the decision.
  • The compulsory retirement age for female and male judges would be set at 65. The initial plan would have set the retirement age at 60 for female judges and 65 for male judges, a change that would have forced almost 40 percent of Supreme Court justices to retire.
  • The Polish president would have the right to decide whether a judge could work past 65. The initial plan would have empowered the justice minister to make this decision.

Read more: Poland's PiS takes control of judicial watchdog

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What were the reactions?

Ast told Reuters news agency: "This is a step in the direction to ease the concerns presented by the European Commission." He added: "We hope that these steps will be positively received by the European Commission."

Poland's opposition said the changes were "a lie" and amounted to "window dressing," citing the fact that the PiS had already taken over the body that oversees judicial impartiality, the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), and replaced multiple court presidents.

Former KRS spokesman Waldemar Zurek told AFP news agency that he hoped "the cosmetic changes" would not "deceive" the European Commission.

Read more: Why Poland will be the EU's biggest challenge in 2018

EU dismissal: The latest PiS move came after the European Commission on Tuesday rejected the Polish government's latest defense of the judicial changes.

Article 7: The Commission has threatened to sanction Poland under Article 7 of the EU treaty in response to what it has said are "systematic threats" to the independence of the Polish judiciary and the rule of law. The sanctions could include suspension of Poland's EU voting rights. Thursday's announcement was Poland's first concession to EU demands since Brussels triggered Article 7 in December.

Read more: Poland and the EU... It's complicated

amp/kl (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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