EU Welcomes New Polish Government’s Plan to ‘Restore Rule of Law’

The European Union on Tuesday welcomed Poland’s plan to “restore the rule of law” and dismantle policies by the former nationalist government which led to the freezing of billions of euros in EU funds due to concerns over judicial independence.

Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party, which ruled for eight years, carried out a deep overhaul of the judiciary which the EU said damaged democratic checks and balances and brought courts under political influence.

As a result, the European Commission held back billions of euros in funds earmarked for Poland.

EU commissioners said the plan by the new pro-EU government, in power since last December, and which involves several bills rolling back PiS reforms, was well received.

“This was very impressive for the Commission to listen to so many positive comments around the table… the reactions are very positive,” European Union Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told reporters.

The deputy head of the European Commission, Vera Jourova, called the action plan “realistic”.

Poland’s new prime minister, Donald Tusk, has vowed to restore judicial independence and get the funds released. But he faces resistance from PiS supporters and allies, who include President Andrzej Duda and some high-profile judges.

“I think that the very positive reaction from the member states is also associated with a certain level of trust that we will do it in a way that is predictable and consistent with the rule of law,” Polish Justice Minister Adam Bodnar said after presenting the plan in Brussels.

Bodnar said earlier the plan includes changes to the National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ), which appoints judges, and the Constitutional Tribunal which critics say has been politicized under PiS.

In a sign that the government is committed to implementing the changes soon, Tusk’s cabinet approved on Tuesday a bill on the NCJ proposed by Bodnar, which will now go to parliament.

The bill assumes members of the Council would be chosen by judges, not politicians as they were under changes introduced under PiS. The European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice of the EU had pointed to irregularities in the procedure.

“On the day of announcing the results of the new election to the NCJ, those judges in the Council who were elected in an unconstitutional manner by the (parliament), on the basis of provisions adopted in December 2017, will cease to function in the Council,” the government said.

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