While speaking to the European Parliament at a plenary in Strasbourg, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended his government’s controversial changes to the country’s laws that forced two-fifths of Poland’s supreme court justices into forced retirement earlier this month unless they received a special exemption from Polish President Andrej Duda.
The MEPs responded forcefull to Morawiecki’s speech, with many lashing out at his attempt to justify Warsaw’s moves to undermine the country’s rule-of-law and said the new regulation is a flagrant political attack on the independence of Poland’s judicial system.
“There’s a question of principles, of our common community,” the leader of the Liberal Alliance of the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt said in Strasbourg. “Reform of the judiciary is certainly a legitimate goal, but forcing judges to retire can never be part of such a reform.”
Manfred Weber, the leader of the Parliament’s European People’s Party group, suggested that Morawiecki missed an opportunity to clarify Poland’s position and described the country as “that one single member blocking everything”.
Morawiecki, however, was steadfast in his government’s defence, saying “We are now trying to throw off the post-Communist yoke,” and underlined that the revamp is a part of Warsaw’s struggle to rid itself of its Communist legacy, nearly 30 years after the Soviet-backed Polish People’s Republic ceased to exist.
“Poland is a proud country, please don’t lecture us about these sort of things,” Morawiecki said, before adding that the ultra-conservative Polish government is beginning to wonder “whether the European Commission is really an honest broker” in its dealings with certain countries.
The European Commission earlier announced the opening of urgent procedures against Poland that will be heard by the European Court of Justice. In December, the EU executive triggered Article 7 against Polish government after it ignored repeated warnings against the changes to country’s judicial laws.
Morawiecki has suggested that the decision to remove the judges is part of a “union of nations 2.0” which needed to “renew the social contract,” between them.
The debate comes just days after Duda used the new rules to force Malgorzata Gersdorf, the top judge on the country’s Supreme Court, into early retirement, Gersdorf, however, defied the ruling by arriving to work on July 4 and saying that “the constitution gives me a six-year term”.