Monday, 20 August, 2018

Poland clashes with EU over judicial reforms, rule of law

Polish President Andrzej Duda GETTYPolish President Andrzej Duda
Ellis Copeland | 06 July, 2018, 14:43

But Paweł Mucha, a presidential aide, said Gersdorf was "going into retirement in accordance with the law", which took effect at midnight on Tuesday, and insisted the supreme court was now "headed by Judge Józef Iwulski", who was chosen by the president.

Protests in Poland have been on a gradual build in recent days with thousands upon thousands taking to the streets in towns and cities across the country.

It changes the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 65, which would force 27 of 72 Supreme Court justices off the bench.

The authorities have introduced laws which allow over half of all judges of the Supreme Court to be removed and exchanged and which allow for removal of the President of the Supreme Court before her term of office expires.

"The constitution guarantees me this venerable post for six years, and I see no reason why I should file a petition with the executive branch about it", she said.

"Under the constitution, Mrs. Gersdorf has retired because she exceeded the age limit of 65", he told state broadcaster Polish Radio, adding that Gersdorf has not filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court against the new retirement law. "So this legislation.is clearly unconstitutional. and could lead to paralysis at the Supreme Court", said the expert, Marek Chmaj. Some of them have asked Duda for an extension under the new regulations.

The Warsaw government says the reforms are necessary to improve the accountability of a system that dates back to communist times.

Around 4,000 people - according to the Warsaw town hall - gathered outside the Supreme Court in the capital, many shouting "free courts", "shame" and "constitution" and carrying banners and flags of Poland and the EU.

Hundreds protest outside the Supreme Court building in Warsaw on Wednesday.

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JANEK SKARZYNSKI via Getty Images Polish Supreme Court Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf attends the demonstration in Warsaw on July 3, 2018.

Warsaw has one month to respond to an official European Union challenge in the meantime a government official said it "could live with any further protests".

Democracy champion and Nobel Peace Prize victor Lech Walesa has said he will come to Warsaw Wednesday to defend the Supreme Court.

Through legislation and personnel changes, PiS has taken de facto control of the entire judicial system, including the constitutional tribunal and prosecutors, who now report directly to the justice minister.

"These measures undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges", the European Commission said in a press release on Monday.

"This is the only body (Constitutional Court) that could decide whether a law is compatible with the constitution", he said. "The court system.is an entirely internal matter", PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski was quoted as saying by Gazeta Polska newsweekly in an article published on Wednesday.

The party's standing in polls has held steady at around 40% throughout the dispute, well above any single rival party.

The prime minister said that Poland was willing and ready to engage in the bloc's efforts to reform the energy sector.

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