Justice minister rebuffs ruling party's criticism of reforms

According to Ziobro, PiS had decided not to escalate tensions with the European Commission (EC), and had decided to negotiate rather pushing on with the changes. Marcin Obara/PAP

Poland's justice minister has hit out at the governing party Law and Justice after a senior party member said an overhaul of the judiciary had only had limited success owing to the failings of the Justice Ministry.

Zbigniew Ziobro, who is also leader of one of Law and Justice’s junior coalition parties, said the draft laws prepared by his ministry "became government projects supported by the Law and Justice government and the prime minister."

His words were a response to criticism of his ministry by Ryszard Terlecki, head of the Law and Justice (PiS) parliamentary caucus.

Terlecki, whose party is the dominant force in Poland’s United Right governing coalition, said that "the reform of the justice system has not been as successful as we expected," adding that legislation prepared by the Ministry of Justice "has been poorly prepared."

Ziobro denied responsibility for the limited success of the overhaul he had promoted, saying that the reforms "have been stalled" due to conflicts with the EU and the judicial community. According to Ziobro, PiS had decided not to escalate tensions with the European Commission (EC), and had decided to negotiate rather pushing on with the changes.

The minister said that the conflict focused on "the direction of changes," and not legislative content, countering Terlecki's poor preparation complaint.

The political sniping between the two could exacerbate tensions in the United Right. Earlier this month Solidary Polska, Ziobro’s party, refused to back Law and Justice over the ratification of legislation that will allow Poland to access billions of euros in EU funding.

The conflict between Poland and the EC over the country's justice reforms started in early 2016, just months after the autumn 2015 parliamentary elections won by PiS. The EC claims the changes undermine judicial independence in Poland and threaten the rule of law.