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2015 Polish Constitutional Court crisis

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Last Updated: 18 January 2022

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WARSAW Polands newly elected government brush aside opposition complaints, large street demonstrations and rising international concern to push through legislation this week that could hobble countrys highest Constitutional Court. Its battle which is turning Poland from poster child of post-communist successful nation whose former Prime Minister Donald Tusk last year became President of European Council into growing problem for European Union. Warsaws perceive of democratic norms is creating alarm in Brussels. Frans Timmermans, European Commissions Vice President in charge of Rule of Law and fundamental Rights, fired off letter to Polands Justice and foreign ministers on Wednesday, warning government to slow its push to upend Court. He was reacting to law passed by lower house of Parliament on Tuesday and approved early Thursday by Senate. It dramatically reshapes functioning of Constitutional Tribunal, 15-judge Court that rules on constitutionality of laws passed by Parliament. After change, rulings will require two-thirds majority, not simple majority, and Court will be unable to hold hearings with smaller numbers of judges, slowing its work. Law And Justice Party, Which Took Control Of Polands Presidency In May And Then Won Outright Majority In Parliament In October, Argue Changes Are Needed To Make Court More Effective And To Better Balance It Politically. Critics accuse party of destroying checks and balances of Poland's democracy by ramming through radical political program that may not pass Constitutional muster. Jarosaw Kaczynski, PiSs founder and leader and Polands most powerful politician who chose both President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata for their posts, recently called Tribunal bastion of everything in Poland that is bad. All our actions could be questioned for whatever reason, he said in television interview. That was Kaczynskis experience from 2005-2007, when his Party briefly held power and he led coalition government, which was stymie by Tribunal.

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* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Domestic reaction

On 2 December, Jacek Kucharczyk, director of Institute of Public Affairs, Poland in Warsaw, was quoted as saying that Constitutional Court was one branch of government that they theoretically couldn't touch and which curbed its power 10 years ago. On 12 December, protests organised by Committee for Defence of Democracy were joined by crowd of supporters in Warsaw. Next Day, Pro-Government Supporters Rallied In Capital. Supreme Court Of Poland And Polish Lawyers Association View Amendment As Breach Of Article 190 And As Unconstitutional. Lech Waesa, former President of Poland and leader of Solidarity movement in 1980s, states that current situation might lead to civil war and that way in which PiS was proceeding does not amount to open and democratic reform process. Waesa call for referendum on latest changes in law. This government acts against Poland, against our achievements, freedom, democracy, not to mention fact that it ridicules us in world. I'm ashamed to travel abroad. On 5 January 2016, Leszek Miller, former Prime Minister of Poland, criticise Western, especially German, media, and other critics of PiS, saying that they were hysterical and that there was nothing to indicate coup, as PiS was simply regaining power from Civic Platform. Miller accuse chief judge of Constitutional Court, Andrzej Rzeplinski, of acting like politician of Civic Platform. In open letter published on 25 April 2016, former Presidents of Poland, Lech Waesa, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Bronislaw Komorowski, call on Polish public to defend Democracy, and warn that Law and Justice plan to continue their actions, which destroy Constitutional order, paralyze proceedings of Constitutional Tribunal and entire judicial system. Same Week, Poland's Supreme Court Announced That It Regard Verdicts Of Constitutional Tribunal As Binding Even Though These Decisions Were Not Published By Government, As Technically Required By Polish Constitution. In response, PiS spokeswoman Beata Mazurek called Supreme Court's statement result of meeting of team of cronies who are defending status quo of previous governing camp.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

International reactions

On 15 December 2015, Martin Schulz, President of European Parliament, described political situation in Poland as dramatic, with latest actions of Polish government having characteristics of coup. Schulz explicitly refused to withdraw appraisal after protests by Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydo and Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski. On 10 January 2016, Schulz was quoted as describing situation in Poland as putinisation of European politics; and he was backed by Viviane Reding, who complained about attacks on public and private media in line with Putin-Orban-Kaczynski-Logic. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans wrote in letter to Poland's ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs before Christmas, that EU's executive body attaches great importance to preventing emergence of situations whereby rule of Law in member state could be called into question, and that he would expect that this Law is not finally adopt or at least not put into force until all questions regarding impact of this Law on independence and functioning of Constitutional Tribunal have been fully and properly assess. Anne Brasseur, President of Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, call on Polish politicians not to enact, precipitously, legislation relating to Constitutional Tribunal which may seriously undermine rule of Law. On 13 January 2016, European Commission launched formal rule-of-Law assessment to determine serious threat of breach of Union Law based on rules set out in 2014 and provisions of Article 7 of Treaty on European Union, regarding amendments of Constitutional Court and public media Law in Poland. Recommendation, Second Step In Rule-of-Law Assessment, Was Issued On 1 June 2016. Iverna McGowan, director of Amnesty International's European Institutes office in Brussels, comment: willingness of Commission to use rule-of-Law framework is positive step towards more serious approach by EU to speak out and hold its own member states to account on their human rights records. Hungary declared that will oppose any sanctions against Poland. On 11 March 2016, Council of Europe's Venice Commission, who had been asked for opinion by Polish government in December 2015, assessed amendments as crippling Court's effectiveness and undermining democracy, human rights and rule of Law. On 13 April 2016, European Parliament, by 513 votes to 142 and with 30 abstentions, passed resolution declaring that Parliament is seriously concerned that effective paralysis of Constitutional Tribunal in Poland endangers democracy, human rights and rule of Law. In September 2017, European Commission launched second stage of infringement over state of rule of Law in Poland. On 20 December 2017, Commission made fourth recommendation and referred Poland to European Court of Justice for breach of EU Law, stating,

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Sources

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

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