October 22, 2016

Polish minister says looking for solutions to constitutional row

Poland’s Prime Minister Szydlo meets with Timmermans, deputy head of the European Commission at the Prime Minister Chancellery in Warsaw

A senior member of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) signalled on Wednesday it was ready to give some ground to end a constitutional stand-off with the EU, though his leader kept up his invective against Europe in the local press.

The right-wing, eurosceptic government has been caught up in an unprecedented row with Brussels institutions over changes it made to Poland’s constitutional court that critics say weakened the tribunal.

The European Commission launched an investigation into the changes in January, raising the prospect of Poland becoming the first EU member to face sanctions for failing to uphold the rule of law.

But Poland’s prime minister, Beata Szydlo, said on Tuesday a compromise was in sight.

And Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Konrad Szymanski, signalled on Wednesday that the government might accept some judges appointed by the last administration that had earlier been rejected.

“It is not about concessions in this process, it is not about EC’s concessions, but it is all about solutions which will meet all sides’ expectations,” Szymanski told private broadcaster TVN24.

“No aspect of this solution should be treated separately. Some form of introducing these judges is possible, I don’t know if all of them, I don’t know in what order – it depends on other aspects of the accord,” he said.

Poland’s president, a PiS ally, refused in December to swear in three judges who were chosen by the previous administration, and instead appointed three new ones picked by the ruling party.


Opposition critics say PiS’s efforts to overhaul the constitutional tribunal are part of a broader plan to seize more control over state institutions at the expense of democratic checks and balances.

PiS, which swooped to power after a landmark election victory in October, says it is only trying to make the constitutional court more effective and transparent, and calls any criticism politically motivated.

Its policies have triggered protests in Warsaw over the last few months.

But its eurosceptic message remains popular among large parts of the electorate – opinion polls have actually shown a slight increase in support, boosted in part by generous social spending programmes.

“Nobody is attacking the constitutional court,” party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in an interview with Gazeta Polska daily published on Wednesday.

“The European elites are simply unable to come to terms with the democratic choice of Polish voters … They don’t like their choice because it runs against their interests. It’s obvious,” he added.

Kaczynski, the twin brother of President Lech who died in a plane crash in 2010 over Russia, does not hold any government office but is widely seen as the main PiS decision-maker.

Since coming to power, the nationalist-minded group has tightened its grip on the secret services and public media, increased the number of constitutional court judges required to make rulings and changed the order in which the tribunal hears cases.

Polish assets have suffered in recent months. The zloty currency fell to a three-month low against the euro on Monday, with traders blaming the constitutional row.

Related posts