Polish Senate speaker meets EC officials over controversial bill

Grodzki said the Wednesday meeting was a "working consultation." Leszek Szymański/PAP

Senate Speaker Tomasz Grodzki in Brussels on Wednesday met with European Commission (EC) Vice President Vera Jourova and EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders to discuss Poland's latest judiciary bill that introduces disciplinary measures on judges.

The bill also reforms, once again, the country's Supreme Court.

Grodzki, who was accompanied by his deputy, Gabriela Morawska-Stanecka, said after the meeting that all the participants had agreed that the basic EU values, including the rule of law, were inviolable.

Grodzki said the Wednesday meeting was a "working consultation." He also said experts of both sides exchanged views on whether the bill could be improved or rejected in its entirety.

He added that Jourova had welcomed the fact that the judiciary amendments will be opined upon by the Venice Commission, and said the debate around the bill was necessary as Poles needed independent and democratically-rooted courts.

"Everyone wants to be judged by judges who are well-established in their office and truly independent, and who know how to rule in line with fundamental democratic principles," the Senate head said.

In a recent interview for PAP Grodzki also refuted charges that by discussing the judicial bill with the EC he was carrying domestic strife onto the international forum, observing that as Senate speaker he was entitled to such consultations.

The Sejm (lower house), which is dominated by the ruling party, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), passed the bill on December 20 and now the Senate, where PiS does not hold a majority, has 30 days to process the legislation.

Grodzki previously asked the Venice Commission, a legal advisory body to the Council of Europe, for advice on the matter. The Commission has decided to deal with the matter urgently and is coming to Warsaw on Thursday to meet officials from the Justice Ministry, top courts, both houses of parliament and the judiciary governance body.

The legislation has drawn criticism from the European Commission (EC) and may exacerbate Warsaw's ongoing conflict with Brussels over Poland's judiciary reforms that the EC says infringe upon the rule of law principles that Poland had agreed to observe when joining the EU.

Warsaw argues that similar measures are in force in other EU member states and accuses Brussels of unfair treatment.