Venice Commission opinion on courts next week - Senate head

Recounting the talks with the Venice Commission delegation, Grodzki called them "intensive, concrete and detailed," and said both sides "exchanged many detailed comments." Rafał Guz/PAP

The Council of Europe-advising Venice Commission will issue an opinion on recent judicial reforms in Poland next Wednesday or Thursday, Senate (upper house) Speaker Tomasz Grodzki said on Thursday after Warsaw talks with the Commission's delegates.

A Venice Commission delegation arrived in Warsaw on Thursday to discuss the Commission's forthcoming opinion on Polish judicial reforms, which had been requested by Grodzki. The Commission decided to proceed the opinion urgently in connection with a planned Senate debate on the reforms during the house's January 15-17 sitting.

Recounting the talks with the Venice Commission delegation, Grodzki called them "intensive, concrete and detailed," and said both sides "exchanged many detailed comments."

The delegation also spoke with Deputy Sejm Speaker Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, Senators from Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) and other opposition groupings, the national Ombudsman and representatives of the Polish Supreme Court.

After her talks with the delegation, Kidawa-Błońska said they concerned solutions aimed at "ensuring that Polish judicial laws are precise and guarantee conformance with the constitution."

On Thursday morning Poland's Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said the government did not plan to meet the Venice Commission delegation, and said that Grodzki's referral to the body "evoked deep legislative doubts" as the Senate was not empowered to launch any international initiatives.

The questioned reform, which among others introduces disciplinary measures for "obstructive" judges, was passed by the Polish Sejm (lower house) on December 20. Now the Senate, which, unlike the lower house, is not dominated by PiS, has 30 days to process the legislation.

Grodzki previously asked the Venice Commission for advice on the matter. The Commission decided to deal with the matter urgently in view of a forthcoming Senate sitting on the subject, hence the Warsaw visit by its delegates.

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

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

Founded in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall under the official name European Commission for Democracy through Law, the Venice Commission is a group of independent constitutional law experts advising the Council of Europe. Referred to as the Venice Commission due to its meeting place in Venice, Italy. The body convenes four times a year.