European Commission VP discusses Polish judiciary reforms

Věra Jourová, a deputy head of the European Commission responsible for Values and Transparency, came to Poland on Tuesday to discuss the issues of the rule of law and reforming the judiciary with the authorities, representatives of the government, the judiciary, business and civil society.

Ms Jourová was scheduled to meet Speakers of both houses of the Polish parliament, Elżbieta Witek and Tomasz Grodzki, the Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, a deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Małgorzata Gersdorf. Moreover, she met Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro.

On the other hand she did not meet with the National Judiciary Council and the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court.

The EC VP said that she “seeks a new chapter” in the dialogue between Poland and the European Commission.

At the same time she pointed out that she considers the Polish judiciary issue “very important”.

“I will do everything I can to find proper solutions, applicable especially in the long term,” she stated.

Mr Grodzki, the speaker of the upper chamber of the Polish parliament, reported that during the meeting with him, Ms Jourová said that she sees a risk of linking EU budget decisions to the rule of law in each member state.

After meeting Mr Bondar, she said that she is worried about the campaign against judges in Poland.

Ms Jourová said that she would like to “be able to do more to protect members of the Polish judiciary against the anti-judge campaign as it is very harmful and does not create the right atmosphere for their demanding work.”

The Vice-president of the EC also spoke with Małgorzata Gersdorf, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the heads of its three chambers.

“Ms Jourova was talking about the presumed procedure of monitoring the rule of law, but this was not the main topic of the talks,” Michał Laskowski, the spokesperson of the Supreme Court reported.

Poland ready for dialogue

Poland is willing to consider a compromise with the European Union on its selection of judges under certain conditions, said Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro after his meeting with Ms Jourová.

He also said he was ready to convince his colleagues from the ruling camp “to consider coming up with a new model for choosing judges".

At the same time Mr Ziobro stressed that the Polish government and the Polish Ministry of Justice would not agree to the segregation of countries in the EU.

“It cannot be that in some EU and EC countries it is approved that judges are indirectly selected by the democratic mechanisms, as it is in Germany, and in other countries, such as Poland, where we are introducing very indirect mechanisms of democratic control into the process of appointing judges, we are told we are not allowed to do so,” he stated.

Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński stressed that for the dialogue to become real “there must be such a will from both sides”.

"We regret a little that Ms Jourová failed to meet with representatives of the National Council of the Judiciary or the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, as these institutions seem to be the most important objects of the EC's interest. In our opinion, for the dialogue to be real, it is worth giving the opportunity to speak to representatives of these institutions,” he said.

"I encourage the European Commission to get familiar with the Polish law almost two years after its implementation, so the evaluation could also be based on how this law is applied in practice," Mr Jabłoński concluded.

Council of Europe adopts critical resolution

Also on Tuesday, in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland. 140 delegates voted in favour of the resolution, 37 were against, and 11 were absent.

The resolution is critical of the Polish government's efforts to reform the judiciary.

Before the vote there was a debate on this topic when MEPs and representatives of the Council of Europe's states presented their conclusions on the report of the council assessing judicial reforms in Poland.

Five delegates from the Civic Coalition and one from the Left voted in favour of the resolution, while six delegates from the ruling Law and Justice party were against.