Justice minister calls on PM to halt work on judicial reform bill
Poland's justice minister called on the prime minister on Wednesday to stop work on an amendment to the Supreme Court law, which could unlock EU post-pandemic funding.
The progress of the bill is being eagerly watched in Poland as the legislation could unlock the country's access to an EU post-pandemic economic recovery fund, from which Poland has been barred on rule-of-law grounds.
The EU's objections largely concern Poland's justice system, especially a disciplinary chamber for judges in the Polish Supreme Court, which the European Commission (EC) regards as an illegal restriction on judicial independence.
The new legislation could remove some of the EU's misgivings.
However, Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister and leader of a Eurosceptic junior ruling coalition party, on Wednesday appealed to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to halt parliamentary work on the bill.
Ziobro made the call during a press briefing, saying: "This law will disorganise the Polish judicial system, will lead to chaos in the Polish judicial system, it clearly breaches the Polish constitution, limits Polish sovereignty."
The Sejm, Poland's lower house of parliament, is scheduled to vote on Senate amendments to the bill on Wednesday evening.
"This is the last moment to block in an effective way the logic of blackmail which guides the European Commission in its policy towards Poland," Ziobro said, adding that there was "ill will" on the part of the EC, which he said had no intention of paying out the EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 11.5 billion in cheap loans Poland is due from the EU's post-pandemic Recovery and Resilience Facility.
The justice minister cited a letter from EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in which, in Ziobro's view, Reynders clearly states the EC sees no reason to hand over the money following the Sejm's adoption of the bill.
He said changes to the current Supreme Court law were "blackmail on the part of the EC" and that Poland is "dealing with an escalation in demands."
To support this argument, Ziobro cited the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, the implementation of which he sees as an example of further demands from the Commission.
He said this justified the position of his party, Solidary Poland, that giving in to blackmail merely leads to further blackmail. "This is just what is happening," he said.