Opposition says judiciary changes called for by EC cannot be fast-tracked


Borys Budka, a senior member of Civic Coalition (KO), Poland's biggest opposition grouping, said that draft legislation on judicial reforms required by the European Commission (EC) should not be fast-tracked through parliament.

The amended Supreme Court bill, which was tabled in the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party on Tuesday, proposes that all disciplinary issues concerning judges be settled by the top administrative court instead of the Supreme Court's Chamber of Professional Responsibility.

A PiS spokesman said on Wednesday morning that the bill, which could unlock Poland's access to billions of euros in EU funding, would be pushed through parliament "as quickly as possible."

Brussels has so far frozen Poland out of the post-pandemic recovery funding, saying the government has, until now, failed to withdraw or amend changes to the Polish judicial system it feels threaten the rule of law.

For Poland to get the money it must now meet certain rule-of-law conditions, or milestones. The new legislation appears to be an attempt to do this.

Later on Wednesday, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, met the heads of parliamentary caucuses to discuss the draft legislation on the necessary judicial reforms.

Morawiecki said after the meeting that he had appealed to the representatives of opposition parties to deal as soon as possible with the draft amendment to the law on the Supreme Court, which includes a compromise concluded with the European Commission.

"It is a good compromise, we drew red lines there, there were attempts to penetrate deeply into the Polish constitution, into other areas of the judiciary. The European Commission also relented here, it did not enter this space. We also made some corrections," he said.

Following the talks, Budka, the head of the KO caucus, told a joint press conference with other opposition leaders that they had agreed "that the bill that has been submitted to the Sejm will be dealt with at the next session of the Sejm."

"We are ready to work, but it will not be done in a fast-track mode. I think there is time for that next week," Budka said.

He added that the government had started talks with the opposition because it was unsure it would secure a majority in parliament.

Solidary Poland, a euro-sceptic junior member of the United Right governing coalition, has so far opposed any moves that would withdraw or alter previous changes to the Polish judicial system. Its stance would deprive the government of a majority.

Budka also said that his support for the bill would depend on its final form.