Kaczynski says proposed Supreme Court law could be destructive

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), has said that adoption of the amended Supreme Court bill drafted to meet the European Union's expectations could be "extremely destructive" for Poland.

PiS has filed with the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, an amendment to the Supreme Court law aimed to dispel the European Commission's doubts over the state of the rule of law in Poland. According to PiS, the bill changes Poland's rules for disciplining judges and testing their independence, in line with the expectations of the European Commission (EC), the EU's executive arm.

But Kaczynski, when asked by the Gazeta Polska weekly "to assess the chances" that the EC "will recognise Polish milestones as completed" after the bill is adopted, said: "This case is the subject of serious controversy in Poland, so I can't comment on it at the moment."

However, he added that "passing the law would probably, but not certainly, be considered as fulfilling them, but the consequences in Poland could be extremely destructive, not only for the judiciary, but also the entire state apparatus and could harm Poland's adoption of the main funds from the perspective of the 2021-2027 budget."

Asked to elaborate on "the destructive" impact of the amendment, Kaczynski replied: "Destructive in the sense of the possibility of undermining judicial appointments."

He said that the same doubts were raised by President Andrzej Duda, "which is why this law requires clarification and further consultations."

The bill tabled by PiS proposes that all disciplinary issues concerning judges be settled by the top administrative court instead of the Supreme Court's Chamber of Professional Responsibility. The latter is a body created to replace a disciplinary chamber considered by the EC to be politicised. The draft also extends the scope of the so-called test of judicial independence and impartiality, which could be initiated not only by the party to the proceedings, but also ex officio by the court itself. It further supplements the test with the prerequisite for the appointment of a judge "pursuant to the act."

PiS believes that the amendment meets a key "milestone," bringing Poland a step closer to receiving EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 11.5 billion in loans from the EU's pandemic relief fund under the National Recovery Plan.

The bill was scheduled to have its first reading in the Sejm on Thursday. But it was later removed from the agenda after President Andrzej Duda said he had no role in drafting it.

Duda made an appeal "to deal with the bill in a prudent way" and said that he would check whether the new regulations that are required by Brussels to ensure judicial independence are in line with Poland's constitution.

He also said he would not allow an act to be introduced into the Polish legal system that would undermine judicial appointments or allow anyone to review them.

This could question the status of judges appointed after the government's overhaul of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the body responsible for nominating judges, whose independence also has been called into question by both the European court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights due to the fact that most of its members were appointed by the ruling party and not by fellow judges.

On Friday, the president, began a series of consultations with top government officials over the the amendment to Supreme Court bill as proposed by PiS.

Kaczynski's full interview for Gazeta Polska whose excerpts were published on Saturday by the newspaper's website will be published on December 21.