Presidential bill to end judicial regime unacceptable say govt ally

The deputy head of Solidary Poland, one of the junior parties in the governing coalition, has described a presidential bill liquidating the Disciplinary Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court (SN) as "unacceptable".

On Thursday Andrzej Duda, Poland's president, said he was proposing a bill to dismantle the disciplinary chamber for judges, a body which has become the centre of a fierce dispute between Warsaw and Brussels owing to EU fears it lacks independence from the government.

Duda said he made the proposal in a bid to help diffuse the row with Brussels and secure the bloc's post-pandemic recovery funds for his country.

Under the EU’s Recovery Fund, Poland could receive some EUR 58.1 billion, including EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 34.2 billion in loans. But the European Commission has not yet approved the country's national recovery plan due to the dispute over the chamber and wider concerns surrounding the state of the rule of law in Poland.

On Tuesday, Michal Wojcik, the deputy head of Solidary Poland and a member of the Council of Ministers, told Polish radio that the presidential proposal "in the version that is today... is hardly acceptable, or actually unacceptable for us."

"Solidary Poland will not support this project in such a version. It would mean chaos and anarchy in the Polish judiciary," Wojcik said.

Later on Tuesday, Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister and prosecutor general, and the leader of Solidary Poland, also commented on the presidential bill.

"The president's bills were supposed to be a compromise that he presented after vetoing the bills prepared by the Ministry of Justice. It turned out that this compromise in the president's version was rejected both in Poland by a clique of judges, and by the opposition, and by the European Union," Ziobro told a press conference.

He added that he would refer to the president's proposal in the coming days at a press conference, after analysing the bill.

"I can only say that the policy of concessions to EU demands generally leads to aggression towards Poland and further demands," Ziobro said.

The governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has not yet said whether it will support the presidential bill.

The institution of the disciplinary chamber was part of a broader overhaul of the Polish judicial system, large parts of which have been contested by the EU on the grounds that they made courts vulnerable to political pressure.

In October 2019, The European Commission decided to take Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over the regime, arguing that it violated judicial independence and thus ran against EU law. The CJEU ruled that the chamber lacks sufficient independence from the government.

On October 27 last year, the CJEU imposed a EUR 1 million daily fine on Poland until it complies with a July 14 ruling by the same court demanding the immediate suspension of the chamber, which disciplines judges.

In January, the European Commission sent its first call for payment of the fine to Poland, to cover the period from November 3, 2021 to January 10, 2022. The Commission gave Warsaw 45 days to pay the fines, which, according to Reuters, amount to around EUR 70 million.