Polish government says EU overstepping competence in court strife

The European Commission is overreaching its competence by weighing into a debate about a controversial new reform of the nation's judicial system, the Polish government said.

"Brussels wants to be a super government. That's forbidden," Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Monday on news station TVN24.

"The gentlemen from the European Commission have removed themselves from reality."

The controversy revolves around reforms to the country's Constitutional Tribunal, which critics say are intended to strengthen the government's grip on the judicial branch and would undermine democracy and rule of law.

In January, the European Commission launched an inquiry into the Polish reforms, using an unprecedented mechanism aimed at protecting the bloc's fundamental values.

Last week, the commission had said that it would give Poland until Monday to respond to its concerns or else issue a formal set of objections if substantial progress is not made.

By midday on Monday, the commission was "still talking constructively with the Polish authorities," spokesman Margaritis Schinas told journalists in Brussels.

"We hope to find solutions," he added.

Schinas declined to say when the next step might be taken and rejected suggestions that the commission had set an "ultimatum" for Monday.

If the European Union's executive issues a rule of law opinion spelling out its concerns, Warsaw would then have the opportunity to respond before the commission recommends a course of action to remedy the situation.

In the case of non-compliance, Poland could in theory ultimately face a suspension of voting rights in the EU.

The bloc's concerns relate in particular to laws on the government's ability to appoint judges to the Constitutional Tribunal and making it harder to pass rulings, as well as media reforms giving Warsaw a greater say over senior appointments to the public broadcasters.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Monday in Brussels that the EU shouldn't continue with its inquiry into the Polish law.

"This is a procedure that by far oversteps the European treaty," he said.

"We didn't agree to that kind of union [when joining the EU]."

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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