Poland to change contested Supreme Court reforms?

Poland may change its contested Supreme Court laws, a senior conservative politician has said after a European Court decided that new rules forcing a number of Polish judges into retirement should be suspended.

According to Adam Bielan, a deputy Speaker of Poland’s upper house of parliament, there is an “idea to prepare a new reform of the law on the Supreme Court”.

He said the idea emerged in a bid to address a ruling made earlier this month by the Court of Justice of the European Union to suspend reforms introduced in summer until a fuller ruling is made on a complaint submitted by the European Commission against Poland.

Bielan said the court’s decision may have sparked concerns that the Polish government wanted to leave the European Union, which he denied was the case.

He also said that he hoped the date the decision was announced — just ahead of local government elections in Poland — was coincidental because otherwise “one would have to say that one of the most important institutions of the European Union tried to affect the result of the ballot in a member country”.

The Polish reforms, introduced in the summer, saw a retirement age for Supreme Court justices set at 65, forcing a number of judges, including the court’s president, into retirement.

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, took Poland to court over the reform in July, saying that it undermined “the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges.”

The move followed the European Commission last December taking the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, stepping up pressure on Warsaw over judicial reforms and possibly paving the way for sanctions being imposed on Poland.

But Poland’s governing PiS party, which came to power in late 2015, has said that sweeping changes were needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system tainted by the communist past, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.

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