Friday

28th Apr 2017

Polish government curtails constitutional tribunal's powers

  • Sejm passed the law despite an appeal by the Council of Europe (Photo: pis.org.pl)

Poland's parliament passed a law on Tuesday (22 December) to change the functionning of the Constitutional Tribunal, in a move that increases concerns over creeping authoritarianism by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).

Two hundred and thirty five members of the Sejm voted in favour of the bill, which imposes a two-thirds majority among the 15 constitutional judges, instead of a simple majority, with a quorum of 13 judges instead of nine.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Kaczynski: Constitutional Tribunal is 'band of cronies' (Photo: pis.org.pl)

The new law also extends from two weeks to three or six months the delay before which the tribunal can rule on a case which has been refered to it.

The new law, which has to be confirmed by the upper house whithin 30 days, is considered as an attempt by PiS, and its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, to put the tribunal under political control and to free itself from legal checks and balances.

In a written opinion, the Supreme Court warned that the new law “presages huge potential delays and, in fact, the paralysis" of the Constitutional Tribunal.

"The systemic position of the tribunal is one of the few guarantees preventing a dictate of the majority," it said.

The vote follows a previous showdown between the tribunal and the government.

In November, the new government, which was sworn in in October, refused to confirm the appointment of five judges to the tribunal decided by the previous government and appointed five new judges instead.

'Band of cronies'

Critics said the new judges are political appointees and that the procedure used was unconstitutional. The Constitutional Tribunal itself rejected the nomination, but president Andrej Duda, a PiS member, like prime minister Beata Szydlo, swore in the judges anyway.

The new quorum introduced by the law would oblige the tribunal’s president to accept the government’s appointees.

Earlier this month, Kaczynski said at a meeting that the tribunal is a "band of cronies" that refused PiS " the right to introduce laws."

Kaczynski, who was prime minister in 2006, is now only an MP and party chairman but continues to act as the power behind prime minister Szydlo.

Last weekend, as the previous weekend, several dozens of thousands people demonstrated in Warsaw to protest against what they consider as a threat against democracy.

Poland's political evolution has also raised concerns in Europe.

Earlier this month, European Parliament president Martin Schulz said that the showdown with the tribunal amounted to a "coup.” MEPs considered holding a debate on concerns over the rule of law in Poland, but postponed the decision.

On Tuesday, before the vote in the Sejm, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on Polish MPs not to enact - precipitously - legislation relating to the Constitutional Tribunal which may seriously undermine the rule of law."

“To propose far-reaching restrictions of the powers of a judicial institution, whose independence is constitutionally guaranteed, is a matter which merits in-depth reflection," Anne Brasseur said.

Poland's ruling party shows true colours

Poland's newly elected ruling party is showing off its confrontational style by overturning appointments of top judges and stepping up the rhetoric against Russia.

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

Analysis

Orban set to face down EU threats

The European Commission and Parliament are to debate Hungary's slide into illiberal democracy. But the bloc continues to think that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is not a systemic threat.

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  2. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act
  3. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  4. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  6. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  7. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  8. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  9. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  10. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  11. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?