Polish Ruling Party Forces Through Reforms to Defang Supreme Court

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło speaks with members of her cabinet in parliament in Warsaw, January 29, 2016
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło speaks with members of her cabinet in parliament in Warsaw, January 29, 2016 (PiS)

Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party is forcing through judicial reforms that the Supreme Court’s president, Małgorzata Gesdorf, has said would “end” the Supreme Court and “break” the Constitution.

The changes are expected to be enacted next week after a parliamentary committee voted for the legislation on Thursday.

During a hearing, lawmakers from the ruling party rejected all amendments from the opposition, refused to hear independent legal counsel and ignored warnings from parliament’s own lawyers, who said the reforms might be unconstitutional.

Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform, has called for demonstrations in the streets.

“This is no longer a creeping coup,” he told Polish television. “This coup begins to strike.” Read more

Poland Makes Mistake Engaging with France But Not Germany

French president Emmanuel Macron welcomes Polish prime minister Beata Szydło in Paris, November 23
French president Emmanuel Macron welcomes Polish prime minister Beata Szydło in Paris, November 23 (KPRM)

If Poland believes it can make up for its poor relations with neighboring Germany by deepening ties with France, it is making a mistake. Read more

How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland

Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015 (PiS)

Remi Adekoya explains in Foreign Affairs how Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has been able to remain popular despite truncating democratic norms and institutions and antagonizing the EU:

  • It has raised social spending, specifically for poor rural families with children.
  • It portrays its domestic opponents as corrupt elites fighting to preserve their influence.
  • It portrays its European critics as fanatical multiculturalists and militant secularists who are so obsessed with political correctness they have lost all sense of self-preservation. Read more

Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts

Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has surprised observers by vetoing legislation from his own Law and Justice party that would have defanged the judiciary.

Closer scrutiny suggests Duda’s opposition is less meaningful than it is made out to be, though.

The president has said he will sign the bills if they are amended and Leonid Bershidsky argues at Bloomberg View that his proposed changes don’t deviate from the legislation’s objective: “to put the judiciary, which the party argues has turned into an elitist caste, under more political control.” Read more

Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary

Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter's question in Warsaw, June 28
Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter’s question in Warsaw, June 28 (KPRM)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party pushed through more changes to the court system on Wednesday:

  • One bill takes power to appoint members to the National Judicial Council, which is responsible for appointing lower-level judges, away from the judiciary itself and gives it to parliament, where Law and Justice has a majority.
  • The same law removes fifteen of the 25 judges currently serving on the National Judicial Council.
  • A second bill gives the justice minister the power to unilaterally replace court presidents. Read more

EU Threatens Sanctions Against Central European States

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán enters the European Parliament in Brussels for a debate, April 26
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán enters the European Parliament in Brussels for a debate, April 26 (European Parliament)

The European Union is clamping down on its recalcitrant Central European member states.

The European Commission has opened what is called an infringement procedure against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland for failing to take in their share of refugees.

This comes on the heels of several probes into Hungary’s and Poland’s right-wing governments. Read more

Recalcitrant Hungary and Poland Exhaust Europe’s Patience

President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016
President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

The European Parliament has opened an investigation into the state of democracy and rule of law in Hungary, which is ruled by the self-described illiberal democrat Viktor Orbán.

The resolution, introduced by liberal and left-wing groups, passed on Wednesday with the support of 68 members of the conservative European People’s Party, to which Orbán’s Fidesz belongs.

The mainstream right has long shielded Budapest from scrutiny, despite Orbán’s years of attacks on the courts, the central bank and the media, the removal of checks on his parliamentary majority and his pursuing of economic and migration policies that defy the European mainstream. Read more