Talks on judicial bill within ruling camp still in deadlock
Talks between Solidary Poland, junior member of the governing coalition, and the prime minister over a bill on judiciary changes that could unlock Poland’s access to billions of euros in EU funding have not brought any results, government spokesperson has said.
On Wednesday, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, met with Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister and leader of the euro-sceptic Solidary Poland, to continue discussions on draft legislation on judicial reforms required by the European Commission (EC), which was tabled by Law and Justice (PiS), the ruling party, in mid-December.
The new legislation 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 EC to be politicised.
The draft also extends the scope of the so-called test of judicial independence and impartiality, which could be initiated not only by the party to the proceedings, but also ex-officio by the court itself.
PiS believes that the amendment meets a key "milestone," bringing Poland a step closer to receiving EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 11.5 billion in loans from the EU's post-pandemic relief fund under the National Recovery Plan.
Ziobro said earlier that his party would not vote for the amended bill because it "violates the constitution in many areas" and "deeply interferes with Polish sovereignty."
Following Wednesday’s meeting, Piotr Mueller, the government spokesman, said that there is still "some kind of disagreement between Solidary Poland and the rest of the parliamentary caucus on issues related to the act that opens the way to funds from the National Recovery Plan".
"Today, these differences of opinion: both in terms of legislation, purely legal, but also in economic matters, were presented by both sides," he added.
The deputy justice minister and Solidary Poland MP, Sebastian Kaleta said that his party position towards the draft amendment to the Supreme Court Act is conditional upon a possible agreement between the president and the prime minister over the final shape of the bill.
"Due to the fact that President Andrzej Duda... shares the critical stance towards this bill as presented by Solidary Poland, we believe that the best solution is for the Prime Minister to first convince the President of this legislation," Kaleta told the briefing.
The current Supreme Court law was originally drafted by the President's Office and was meant to dispel the European Commission's concerns, but final amendments introduced by PiS, produced a stalemate between the EU and Poland.
Mueller said that the government wants to continue the talks with Solidary Poland so that the Sejm, lower house of Poland’s parliament, can deal with the bill at its nearest sitting scheduled for January 11-13.