A "Happy end" to rule of law clash depends on Poland - Timmermans

EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans cannot guarantee a "happy end" to the current rule of law conflict between the Commission and Poland, as this lay with the Polish parliament and government.

On Tuesday Timmermans told reporters in Luxembourg that he had no influence on the outcome of the conflict as it now depended on the Polish side. He added that according to his knowledge the Polish parliament has passed amendments to EC-contested judicial reforms.

Timmermans said he would inform the EU members' European affairs ministers about progress in the rule of law negotiations with Poland, but remarked that to-date corrections in the judicial reform acts carried through by the Polish side were insufficient.

On Tuesday Timmermans told a meeting of EU European affairs ministers that the Polish parliament's to-date work on the judicial laws failed to resolve issues contested in them by the Commission. He added that a final assessment of progress in the rule of law talks with Poland could be expected in May.

Timmermans stressed that the dialogue with Poland should be continued, and said both sides had the will to reach a solution in the conflict. He also observed that the matter called for a "solid solution" to prevent future threats to the rule of law in Poland.

On Monday, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki announced probable further reforms of the justice system.

In 2016 the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, launched its rule-of-law procedure against Poland over its government's justice reforms on grounds that they impeded the independence of courts. Recently the Commission has triggered the EU Treaty's sanctioning Article 7 against Warsaw in the matter, however launching sanctions against Poland would need the consent of all EU members.

In March, Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party filed amendments to parts of the EC-contested reforms. The amendments are a response to EC admonitions that the reforms threatened to undermine the rule of law.

Under the proposed new laws, the justice minister will have to consult judges before dismissing a court president. Also changed are retirement regulations for judges, with the power to prolong the employment of a retirement-eligible judge ceded from the justice minister to the president. The new laws also introduce 65 years as the retirement age for male and female judges. Under present laws, the retirement age for female judges is 60 years.

Another amendment act filed by PiS concerns three heretofore unpublished Constitutional Tribunal verdicts. The new regulations endorse the verdicts' publication with an annotation that they were issued in violation of Constitutional Tribunal regulations.

The publication of the verdicts was one of the EC's main postulates in debates around the new Constitutional Tribunal laws.