Monday

28th May 2018

Poland may remove constitutional judges

  • Ryszard Terlecki (seated) said the "cabaret" around Poland's constitutional court cannot go on for ever. (Photo: Pawel Kula)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) is considering removing non-loyal judges from the constitutional court to break a long-lasting dispute.

”We can’t let this cabaret go on forever,” PiS MP Ryszard Terlecki told Rzeczpospolita in an interview published on Wednesday (31 August).

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Shortly after winning elections last year, PiS passed a law curtailing the court's powers to scrutinise legislation, and attempted to appoint loyalist judges.

The court ruled that these moves were unconstitutional.

Terlecki, head of PiS' parliamentary group, said parliament was thinking about another bill, but admitted it may be useless.

”Some judges have shown they aren’t interested in complying with the laws passed by the parliament,” he said.

”This means they no longer want to be judges. I will have to find a solution to remove these judges so that they stop harming the court.”

The EU and the Council of Europe have warned of the risk of parallel legal systems, since the government does not recognise the Constitutional Tribunal's rulings but lower courts do.

Polish prosecutors last month launched an investigation against the court's president, Andrzej Rzeplinski, for not accepting three judges appointed by PiS.

Poland's deputy PM Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that the dispute would resolve itself when Rzeplinski steps down at the end of the year.

The European Commission said in July that the constitutional dispute was a threat to the rule of law in Poland and formally recommended the Polish government to recognise the top court’s rulings as well as the judges nominated by the previous parliament.

The commission gave Warsaw until 27 October to comply, or warned it could face sanctions such as losing its Council voting rights.

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 tries to appease EU critics before Nato summit

The parliament passed a bill meant to address foreign critics on judicial reform. NGOs and opposition parties said it did not square with EU demands, but those demands are being kept secret, weakening their hand.

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Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

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Defining what constitutes 'rule of law' violations may be more difficult than the EU Commission proposes, as it tries to link cohesion funds in east Europe to judicial independence. A key question will be who is to 'judge' those judges?

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