In Europe - East

By Marek Strzelecki, Bloomberg News, June 15, 2016

Poland will probably ignore a Wednesday, June 15 deadline to respond to a European Union probe into the state of its democracy, as the head of the ruling Law & Justice Party said his country didn’t have to cooperate.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland at parliamentary session in Dec 2015 (Alik Keplicz, Associated Press )

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland at parliamentary session in Dec 2015 (Alik Keplicz, Associated Press )

Jaroslaw Kaczynski set the stage for a showdown with the European Commission, which set Wednesday as the last day Poland had to respond to a June 1 assessment telling the country to restore the ability of Poland’s highest court to effectively review or overturn laws. The government probably won’t deliver a response today, spokesman Rafal Bochenek said.

“The EU proceedings are arbitrary and groundless,” Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice and the power behind the throne of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s government, told reporters in Krakow on Wednesday. “Adhering to them has been a gesture of good will on our part, but we don’t have to do it.”

The dispute with the EU, triggered after Law & Justice overhauled the Constitutional Tribunal in December, has grown into the worst standoff between Poland and the EU since the ex-communist country joined the bloc in 2004. It has weighed on Polish assets and helped prompt the country’s first-ever credit downgrade, by S&P Global ratings, this year. The probe, in a worst-case scenario, may lead toward potential sanctions against the country of 38 million people.

Poland’s parliament began debating laws to again change operations at the court last week. Among the bills was one drafted by Law & Justice that doesn’t address EU concerns including the government’s failure to implement a ruling by the tribunal that struck down the changes made by Law & Justice and President Andrzej Duda’s refusal to swear in three justices picked by the previous parliament.

“I wouldn’t expect a Polish response today,” Bochenek told Bloomberg. “Our response should be linked to parliamentary work on new legislative proposals on the top court. Once those results are tangible, we will inform the commission.”

The overhaul of the top court was condemned as endangering democracy by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission in March. Recent changes to Poland’s legal and institutional framework, including the paralysis of the constitutional tribunal, threaten human rights and undermine the rule of law, the council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, said in report.

Related readings:

Thousands march against government in Warsaw, Al Jazeera, June 4, 2016

‘…Warsaw authorities said that 50,000 people took part’

Poland’s populist turn, by Rodney Jefferson & Wojciech Moskwa, Bloomberg News, June 4, 2016

Poles protest democracy lapse 27 years after communism ended, Bloomberg News, June 3, 2016

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