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Polish president to veto contentious judicial reform laws

Monday, 24 July, 2017 - 12:28

Polish President Andrzej Duda has said he will veto two of the three judicial reform laws passed last week by the parliament, following days of protests against the controversial measures that the EU had condemned as threatening the independence of the courts.

Duda, a close ally of the governing Law and Justice party had been expected to sign the bills into law, but broke ranks with the government after consulting with legal scholars and historians. The two bills – one that would have forced the early retirement of supreme court judges to be replaced by government appointees, and another that would have enabled the government to appoint members to the council that selects judicial candidates, will now be sent back to parliament to be rewritten.

“I feel that the reform in this shape will not increase the sense of security and justice,” Duda said at the press conference where he announced his decision. “Poland needs reform of the judiciary, but I am in favour of wise reform,” he added.

Opposition politicians have welcomed the surprise move by the president. Katarzyna Lubnauer of the opposition party Nowoczesna party, said: “What we had was not a reform, but appropriation of the courts. I congratulate all Poles, this is a great success.

Last week as tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets across the country the EU joined in the chorus condemning the parliament’s vote. Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said the legislation would “abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government.”

Brussels will be breathing a sigh of relief this morning as it can now pull back on threats it had made to trigger Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, that could have led to the unprecedented step of depriving Poland of a vote in the EU Council.

A third act passed by parliament that gives the justice minister the power to select the heads of regional courts will be signed into law by president Duda.   

 


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