Tuesday

18th Feb 2020

Polish government promises constitutional reform

  • Poland's president Andrzej Duda celebrating Constitution Day. (Photo: Grzegorz Jakubowski/KPRP)

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has called for a public debate on updating the constitution, amid a bitter row over the government's attempts to reform the constitutional court.

President Andrzej Duda called the constitution a "work in progress” that reflected "times passed".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"Not everything could be regulated properly, we cannot let that pass on the current agenda," he said.

He said the nation should come together in a debate on how to update the text.

Duda was speaking on Tuesday (3 May) - a public holiday when Poles celebrate the short-lived 1792 constitution. The current basic law dates to 1997.

The president, who represented PiS as an MEP before winning the presidency last year, has already said there should be better protection of families, especially those with disabled children, hinting at a possible constitutional ban on abortion.

”Where are the standards that would really define modernity in the current world?” he asked.

”How is it possible that the constitution and the constitutional court are supposed to defend civil rights, but still it is possible to raise the retirement age for Poles, and they have no protection against it? Who wrote the constitution and how is it guarded?”

Earlier this year, the EU started monitoring the rule of law in Poland in a special procedure after PiS reformed the constitutional court.

The law increased the number of judges required to make a decision valid, and changed the order of cases.

PiS said the reforms were needed to reflect the new balance of power, but the judges said the court had been paralysed.

PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski used Constitution Day to announce a constitutional review beginning in 2017.

His party currently lacks the two-thirds majority needed to change the basic law, but he said that could change after the next election.

In the meantime, his party will plan possible changes.

”We have a lot to offer to the Polish society. We can really achieve a great victory,” he told a conference in the Polish parliament on Monday.

But PiS critics say their reforms risk creating a dual legal system because the government is refusing to accept rulings made by the constitutional court, but several lower courts have said they will follow the constitutional court’s rulings rather than those from the government.

European Commission’s vice president Frans Timmermans postponed a planned travel to Warsaw on Saturday (7 May) to follow up on the rule of law procedure.

Many Poles demonstrated on 3 May in support of the rule of law.

In Warsaw, a dozen activists from the Committee in Defence of Democracy protested in front of the presidential palace.

They held up a placard of the first page of the Polish constitution with a footprint of a shoe on it. They urged the president not to trample on the constitution.

EUobserved

How to build an illiberal democracy in the EU

With Brussels increasingly worried by Poland, we take a look how Hungary's Viktor Orban created a template for dismantling democratic checks and balances inside an EU state.

European experts to probe Polish police law

The Council of Europe is sending a team to Poland to investigate fears that a new law will give police too much power, as the supreme court weighs into a row over legal reform.

EU ready to step up Polish monitoring

Poland has said it will not undertake rule of law reforms before EU deadline, prompting stage two of unique monitoring process.

News in Brief

  1. EU budget to introduce rule-of-law condition
  2. Far-right rally meets counter protests in Dresden
  3. Chief negotiator: UK will not align with EU standards
  4. Budget commissioner sold off energy shares in January
  5. German far-right group 'planned mosque attacks'
  6. German family minister urges gender quotas in boardrooms
  7. Decision on Catalan MEPs' extradition postponed again
  8. German court orders Tesla to stop cutting down trees

Agenda

Budget, Zuckerberg, Pelosi and Cayman Islands This WEEK

EU leaders will put their heads together on Thursday night to look for a compromise on the next long-term EU budget. EU Council president Charles Michel's latest proposal has received a lukewarm welcome from member states.

EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal

Small steps are being made to reveal who is lobbying who within the EU. But the approach is basically haphazard and piecemeal - meaning the public remains largely in the dark and unable to truly scrutinise the influencers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us