EU’s Timmermans in Poland to calm spat over justice and rule of law

EPA-EFE/RADEK PIETRUSZKA POLAND OUT

First Vice-President of European Commission Frans Timmermans (L) and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (R) during a meeting in Warsaw, Poland, 18 June 2018. PM Morawiecki and Timmermans will discuss the rule of law in Poland.

EU’s Timmermans in Poland to calm spat over justice and rule of law


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The European Commission hopes it can continue “constructive” dialogue with Poland over contested judiciary reforms, the EU executive’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said today.

Timmermans, who had called for a formal hearing of EU states to consider unprecedented penalties against Poland said at a news conference in Warsaw with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki: “We had a constructive discussion about the issues pertaining to the rule of law,” adding that he was given new information about the reforms. “I hope we can continue constructive discussions to resolve the issue at hand.”

The European Commision believes judiciary reforms undertaken by the conservative Law and Justice government subvert the rule of law. Brussels has introduced a procedure against Warsaw that could lead to a suspension of its voting rights.

A Polish official on June 16 accused Timmermans of blocking a bid to resolve Poland’s dispute with the EU over the country’s controversial court reforms. Timmermans said last week that Poland had failed to allay fears that it is undermining judicial independence.

“I get the impression that part of the European Commission, especially its president Jean-Claude Juncker, would like to resolve this matter. What’s standing in the way are certain issues relating to commissioner Timmermans,” Polish presidential spokesman Krzysztof Lapinski told public radio on Saturday.

“It’s problematic. If there’s someone on the other side who approaches the matter very ambitiously, emotionally, personally…then it will be hard to strike a compromise, even if only a few weeks ago it seemed like things were heading in that direction.”

Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice government began making changes to the judiciary after coming to power in late 2015. It says the reforms are needed to combat corruption and overhaul the judicial system still haunted by the Communist era.

Timmermans, who is from the Netherlands, warned earlier in June that the lower courts already under threat, “it is now the Polish Supreme Court which is at risk of coming under political control.”

Around a third of Poland’s supreme court judges risk being fired or forced to retire next month under the reforms. In December, Brussels triggered proceedings against Poland over “systemic threats” to the rule of law, which could eventually see Warsaw’s EU voting rights suspended.

Hungary’s President Viktor Orban has already said he would veto any steps taken to censure his key far-right allies in Poland, but Brussels is hoping the proceedings will have significant symbolic power.

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