President refers court reform bill to Constitutional Tribunal
Poland's president has said he has decided to send a key bill reforming the disciplinary regime for judges to the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) for an evaluation before signing it into law.
President Andrzej Duda explained that as a result, the law will not come into force until the TK has ruled on its constitutionality.
On January 13, the Sejm, the lower house of Polish parliament, passed an amendment to the law on the Supreme Court. According to MPs of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, the authors of the legislation, the amendment 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 body created to replace a disciplinary chamber considered by the European Commission (EC) to be politicised.
Law and Justice hopes that it will satisfy one of the conditions, or milestones, set by the EC Poland needs to meet if it wants to gain access to a post-pandemic recovery fund, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, from which the country is due to receive EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 11.5 billion in inexpensive loans.
After passing through the Senate and being returned to the Sejm, which rejected all the Senate's amendments, the bill went to the president for signing, but he has decided to get the TK to assess its compliance with the constitution first, in what he described as a "preventative measure."
"This compromise is necessary both for Poland and the European Union," Duda said on Friday evening. "But speaking honestly, that agreement raises serious controversies of a constitutional nature."
Duda said he was an advocate of compromise and as such had decided not to veto the bill as Poland's economy needs the EU funding. He added that as president he is the guardian of the constitution and takes care of citizens' rights, which he said would be affected by the bill's provisions.