Wednesday, July 6

Poland yields to the EU and eliminates the disciplinary chamber that could purge judges


Correspondent in Brussels

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Warsaw and Brussels will sign peace with the scheduled visit of the President of the European Commission to Poland on June 2, after two years of serious institutional tensions on the issue of respect for the principles of the rule of law. The lower house of the Polish Parliament, the Diet, approved last Thursday the bill that annuls the disciplinary chamber of the Supreme Court that could punish judges and that was one of the most discordant elements in the dispute. The pressures exerted by the Commission by blocking the delivery of the 36,000 million that correspond to the country to face the consequences of the pandemic have had an effect, but the parliamentary vote has not yet served to fully resolve the problem because it has not satisfied even the most extreme nationalists who accuse the Government of having surrendered to the EU or the democratic opposition of the Civic Platform who considers that the measures are not enough.

From Brussels they have had to recognize that the war in Ukraine and the specific role that Poland has played in massively receiving more than two and a half million refugees did not leave it room to continue maintaining its pressure against the Government. The President of the European Council, Charles Michaelhas traveled several times to Poland to offer his support in the migration crisis with Belarus first and now with the arrival of Ukrainians fleeing the war, but relations with the European Commission were completely frozen.

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On Thursday afternoon, shortly before the vote, the spokesman for the main government majority party, PiS (Law and Justice), Radoslaw Fogiel, stated that the dispute with Brussels had ended. “An agreement has been reached. The negotiations are over. The European Commission accepted a certain compromise. Poland is reforming the disciplinary aspect of its judicial system and the Commission will try not to interfere where it has no competence and should not». However, the bill still needs to be approved by the Senate, where the ruling party does not have a majority, and for now all the opposition groups in the lower house have voted against the measure. The openly Eurosceptic United Poland party, which is a junior member of the ruling coalition, fiercely opposed it, saying the government had bowed to Brussels, while both the centre-right and left opposition warned the move was not enough to restore the rule of law and protect the judicial system from political interference.

The approved proposal wants to serve to fulfill three conditions of the Commission: dismantle the controversial disciplinary chamber that can punish judges without being controlled by the Justice itself; reform the disciplinary system and adjust it to normal principles in all countries; and reinstate judges dismissed as a result of disciplinary processes carried out by this chamber.

festering problem

The blocking of money from the recovery fund has become a festering problem for the Polish nationalist government, which urgently needs a boost in the economy hit hard by the pandemic first and runaway inflation.

The change in the PiS’s relations with the Commission also coincides with the imminent dismissal of opposition leader Donald Tusk as president of the European People’s Party (EPP). This former Polish prime minister and then president of the European Council is the leader of the opposition in Poland and his goal is to topple PiS in next year’s elections. Without the Ukraine war and its effects and with the pressure from the Commission, his options were much clearer than they are now.

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After this vote, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban He has been left alone in this fight against the competences of the European Union in fundamental matters, to which is now added his refusal to approve the agreement on the sixth package of sanctions against Russia that would imply the prohibition of buying oil from the Kremlin. Brussels also keeps European funds for Hungary frozen but, on the other hand, it is looking for a formula so that the effects of these energy sanctions can be assumed by the country. The situation has also deteriorated Poland’s relations with Hungary due to its coldness towards the refugees.

The European Parliament has managed to impose the legal criterion that allows the European Commission to block the delivery of funds to countries that do not comply with community standards in terms of respect for the rule of law.

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