Monday

11th Dec 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

Thousands march for Catalonia in Brussels

Around 45,000 people marched in support of Catalonia in Brussels to get the EU involved in mediating the conflict with Madrid. 'Europe must realise that it can still play a role in the Catalan crisis,' said self-exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont.

Thousands march for Catalonia in Brussels

Around 45,000 people marched in support of Catalonia in Brussels to get the EU involved in mediating the conflict with Madrid. 'Europe must realise that it can still play a role in the Catalan crisis,' said self-exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage