Parliament starts work on bill amending Supreme Court law

Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Poland's lower house of parliament, the Sejm, started work on Wednesday on a government bill amending the law on the Supreme Court, tabled in a bid to satisfy European Commission (EC) requirements to unlock post-pandemic recovery funding.

Poland is due to get EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 11.5 billion in cheap loans from the EU's post-pandemic Recovery and Resilience Facility.

But the EC has blocked Poland's access to the funding due to a rule-of-law dispute, despite the fact that the Commission has approved Poland's National Recovery Plan (KPO), which outlines how the government will spend the money.

In a bid to get access to the funds, MPs of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party have tabled a bill in the Sejm amending the law on the Supreme Court with a view to satisfying one of the rule-of-law "milestones" set by the EC.

Under the bill, disciplinary and immunity matters affecting judges would be dealt with by the Supreme Administrative Court rather than by a recently-established Chamber of Professional Responsibility.

MP's of the main opposition grouping, Civic Coalition (KO), along with MPs of the Polish People's Party (PSL), The Left and Poland 2050, announced they would present joint amendments to the bill while the far-right Confederation (Konfederacja) party moved for it to be thrown out of parliament.

During a first-reading debate, Kazimierz Smoliński, a PiS MP, said his party supported the bill fully.

"We expect support from the opposition. You often say you support us and will facilitate this money (from the KPO). We'll see whether you will vote for this bill," he said.

The head of the KO parliamentary caucus, Borys Budka, highlighted that Poland had been waiting for the KPO payout for 21 months and said his grouping was ready to work on the proposal.

"We are ready to adopt this bill during this sitting," he said. "We have joint opposition amendments prepare.. Get those pests out of government; those who call us traitors, those who question the KPO, and at least finally show that the prime minister is the prime minister and not just a puppet in the hands of his own ministers," Budka continued in reference to opposition to the bill from junior coalition partner Solidary Poland