Saturday

17th Apr 2021

Polish president lectures EU judges on independence

Polish president Andrzej Duda on Thursday (2 June) stressed the importance of legal principles and rule of law.

”They are essential for the construction of democratic societies and their ability to live in peace, security and with a sense of justice," Duda said during a meeting with the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) in the presidential palace in Warsaw.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • (Photo: Andrzej Hrechorowicz)

He said the independence of judges must be ensured.

”Independence and autonomy … is also a question of personal character, personality,” he said. "It's the ability to resist pressure, not just from the government but also from media and society, as well as superiors.”

ENCJ unites national judicial councils, institutions that work to ensure the independence of judges and the good functioning of judiciary systems in Europe.

The independence of the Polish national judiciary council (KRS), an ENCJ founding member, is under pressure after minister of justice Zbigniew Ziobro suggested to reform the body. He wants to dimiss its current members and elect new ones, as well as to strengthen the president’s control over the council.

KRS members say they are being punished for having thrown their weight behind Poland’s constitutional court in its dispute with Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS). The latter has tried to fill the court with loyalist judges and change its operating procedures to make the court’s work less efficient.

Ziobro and Duda both represent PiS.

ENCJ chairman Geoffrey Vos said the council supported the independence of the Polish judiciary and closely followed the fate of KRS and the constitutional court.

”We are willing to act,” Vos said, ”but our network lacks a magic wand that would make the problem disappear. But we are willing to present European best practice in the area.”

Poland’s commissioner for human rights Adam Bodnar said PiS seemed to be using the judicial crisis to push through unconstitutional bills, such as one on the prosecutor’s office which made justice minister Ziobro Poland’s general prosecutor as well.

”The prosecutor’s office set up a special department for judges,” Bodnar said. ”What’s that good for, if Poland is seen as one of the countries with the least corrupt judicial system?”

”We don’t have a proper separation of powers”, Bodnar continued.

”This is why it’s important that independent bodies monitor what is happening in Poland,” he told the European judges.

The European Commission has launched an investigation into the rule of law in Poland.

Duda is a doctor of law and used to teach at the Jagiellonian university in Cracow. His academic superviser, professor Jan Zimmermann, told Gazeta Wyborcza last year that he was sorry to see his former pupil violating the Polish constitution.

”He’s done it at least three times”, Zimmerman said.

”When pardoning Mariusz Kaminski [ a PiS politician who was sentenced to three years in prison for abuse of power]. When he refused to accept the oath of three constitutional judge-designates [who had been nominated by the previous government]. And when he hastily appointed the judges put forward by PiS for the court."

Analysis

EU still shy of 'nuclear option' on values

The EU commission has moved forward with its rule-of-law probe on Poland, but critics say that a better framework is needed to uphold values.

Poland questions legality of EU probe

On eve of potentially damning EU decision, Polish strongman Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said EU rule of law monitoring could be challenged in Luxembourg court.

Polish government promises constitutional reform

As Poland celebrates Constitution Day, the president says the current basic law should better reflect "modernity", amid a bitter fight over his party's attempts to reform the constitutional court.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us