Polish Parliament Passes Judiciary Reform Bill in the Midst of Tensions With Brussels

The EU heavily criticized the bill, with Brussels announcing possible sanctions against Poland

Poland’s lower house of parliament passed a controversial legislation that enables the justice minister to new judges to the country’s Supreme Court. The legislation was backed by 235 MP’s, while 193 voted against.

The controversial bill caused months of heated debates within Poland, with the opposition claiming that the proposed judicial reforms will endanger the independence of country’s courts. Thousands of demonstrators went to the streets to protest against the government and express their disapproval of the proposed reform.

The European Union gave a one week deadline to Poland to put a stop to the judicial reforms, which Brussels sees as an attempt to place the country’s courts under government control.

“These laws considerably increase the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland. Each individual law, if adopted, would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary. Collectively they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government”, said Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European commission.

Timmermans threatened Poland with sanctions, warning that the EU is ‘very close’ to triggering article 7, an unprecedented sanction in the European treaties that allows a member state’s voting rights in the council of ministers to be suspended.

On Thursday, European Council President Donald Tusk said in a statement that the move went ‘against European values’ and that Poland risked being ‘marginalised’ in the bloc.

While Timmermans said that he was confident he would have the support of member state in case the Commission recommends triggering the Article 7, several Central European countries expressed their support for Poland, most notably Hungary and Slovakia.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a statement on Thursday that Hungary stands by Poland. Szijarto called the EU Commission ‘not to overstep its authority’. The minister also said the Commission wants to meddle into Poland’s domestic affairs, and it should not “act like a political body”.

“We stand by Poland, and we call on the European Commission not to overstep its authority,” Szijjarto said.

Photo: Kacper Pempel / Reuters