Monday

16th Sep 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

Those tricky commissioner candidates in full

Three central European commission nominees can expect to feel the heat from MEPs later this month, with the Hungarian candidate emerging as the most controversial.

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us