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Poland blinks in EU rule of law dispute


Poland’s de facto leader Jarosław Kaczyński said the country would change its system of judicial discipline to compromise in a long-standing legal dispute with the EU.

However, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party also said that the disciplinary chamber – which the EU says breaks the bloc’s laws – will not stop functioning so much as it will take a different form.

The disciplinary chamber will be changed from its “current form,” Kaczyński told the Polish state news agency PAP on Saturday (August 7th).

Last month, the EU’s highest court reiterated its call for the “immediate” suspension of the disciplinary chamber due to a lack of independence and impartiality, which violates EU laws.

In response, Poland’s highest court dismissed the EU order as unconstitutional.

The result added to concerns that Poland was no longer complying with EU rules, calling into question the legal functioning of the EU.

Critics say the disciplinary chamber is used to punish judges critical of the Kaczyński government and to exert political pressure on judges.

The European Commission has given Warsaw until August 16 to comply or face a fine.

Meanwhile, Kaczyński said the government will propose changes to the disciplinary system in September.

“We will close the disciplinary chamber in the format in which it currently operates and this will remove the subject from the [EU] dispute, ”Kaczyński told PAP, without giving details of the specific legal solution.

“There is the issue of the format of the disciplinary chamber, but that does not mean that the chamber will not work in any form,” he said.

Kaczyński also said he did not accept “such decisions because they definitely go beyond the EU treaties”, and said he wanted judges to no longer have legal immunity in Poland. .

He added that it would be a test for the EU if it had a “semblance of goodwill” or if it simply wanted Poland “to be ruled only by those handpicked by the EU authorities”.

His comments were a sign that Poland may seek to defuse the rule of law conflict with the EU, as it wants to guarantee its access to the nearly € 24 billion of EU funds available for its post economic recovery. -Covid.

However, the disciplinary chamber is only part of the disputes between Poland and the EU.

Poland has been under EU control since 2017 because Kaczyński’s judicial overhaul has repeatedly sounded the alarm about the independence of the judiciary.

“The mere dissolution of the disciplinary chamber does not solve the problem of past and illegal decisions and sanctions adopted by this body,” Laurent Pech, professor of European law at Middlesex University in London, told Reuters.

The ruling PiS-led coalition government has been divided over whether to compromise with the EU.

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who heads United Poland, one of the smallest and most hawkish coalition partners, on Friday insisted that Poland not back down.

“I am a fierce opponent of succumbing to the illegal blackmail of the European Union by the Court of Justice of the European Union,” Ziobro told the daily Rzeczpospolita.

“The belief that the EU is a good uncle and gives us money, and that we should accept all of its demands at all costs, is propaganda and false,” he also said according to Reuters, while adding that Poland remained in the EU, but not at any cost.

Meanwhile, the President of the Polish Supreme Court, Małgorzata Manowska, last Thursday partially suspended the disciplinary chamber of judges until mid-November.

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