European Union threatens Poland with sanctions over judiciary powers overhaul

European Union threatens Poland with sanctions over judiciary powers overhaul

The EU says the Polish reforms undermine judicial independence and break EU rules.

"It is time to restore the independence of the Constitutional Tribunal and to either withdraw the laws reforming the judiciary or bring them into line with the Polish constitution and with European standards on judicial independence", Timmermans said on Wednesday.

Brussels said President Andrzej Duda's unexpected vetoing of two controversial reforms, including one targeting the supreme court, had not ended the risk to the independence of Polish judges. Duda did, however, sign into law a bill giving the justice minister power to name the heads of all lower courts, in what critics see as a blow to the country's system of checks and balances.

The leader of Poland's ruling party said Thursday that the government intends to "decentralize" the media after it completes a "radical" overhaul of the judicial system that the European Union has denounced as violating democratic norms.

The conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), led by leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, former Prime Minister and twin brother of Polish President Lech Kaczynski who died in a 2010 plane crash near Smolensk, Russia.

The Commission gave Poland a month to respond to concerns for the rule of law raised by the European Union executive in an unprecedented process launched a year ago and now aggravated by Poland's alleged politicization of the judiciary.

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Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system tainted by the communist past, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.

The European Commission said the reform carried out by the Polish ruling party "amplified the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland" already identified by the Commission in a rule of law procedure started by the Commission in January 2016.

Populist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has vowed he would instantly veto any such move by the EU.

"We will not tolerate any blackmail from European Union officials, especially blackmails that are not based on facts", government spokesman Rafal Bochenek told state new agency PAP. "The Commission requests the Polish authorities to address these problems within one month".

"If the Polish government goes ahead with undermining the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Poland, we will have no other choice than to trigger Article 7", he added.

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