Solidary Poland, a euro-sceptic junior member of the United Right governing coalition, continues to oppose an amended Supreme Court bill that could unlock Poland’s access to billions of euros in EU funding.
On Friday, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, met Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister and Solidary Poland’s leader, to discuss draft legislation on judicial reforms required by the European Commission (EC), which was tabled by the 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 Morawiecki’s meeting with Ziobro and Solidary Poland representatives, the deputy justice minister and Solidary Poland MP Sebastian Kaleta said that during the meeting his party’s stand had been reiterated, and that the bill could lead to the possible undermining of some judicial appointments.
The draft could question the status of judges appointed after the government’s overhaul of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the body responsible for nominating judges, whose independence also has been called into question by both the European court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights due to the fact that most of its members were appointed by the ruling party and not by fellow judges.
“Solidary Poland expressed its position indicating the risk of the possibility of undermining the status of judges on the basis of the provisions presented, which could result in paralysis of the judiciary, through the possibility of undermining judgments, only due to the appointment to the office of a judge in recent years,” Kaleta told PAP.
“As a result of the discussion, the key discrepancies were not removed, but due to the nature of the matter and a matter-of-fact approach to this discussion, it was agreed that the talks would be continued,” Kaleta added.