Poland’s lower house of Parliament adopts judicial reform

Poland’s Supreme Court reform bill, which was needed to unlock billions of euros in European Union (EU) post-pandemic recovery funds, was passed by the lower house of the country’s Parliament, or Sejm.

In the 460-member chamber, 203 deputies supported the bill, 52 were against (including 22 members of the ruling caucus) and 189 abstained (opposition parties), Xinhua news agency reported.

The government itself was split over the reform as Solidary Poland, a small Eurosceptic ally in the United Right coalition led by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, strongly opposed any concessions towards the EU and refused to back the prime minister’s plan to fast-track the changes in order to gain quick access to the much-needed funding.

According to the new legislation, all disciplinary issues concerning judges should be settled by the top administrative court instead of the Supreme Court’s Chamber of Professional Responsibility, a body created to replace a disciplinary chamber considered by the European Commission to be politicized.

The bill will now go to the opposition-dominated Senate.

PAP quoted Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as calling the bill “a difficult compromise, but the point is to end one dispute” with the Commission.

Commission spokesman Christian Wigand told state media that the bill is an important step towards meeting the milestones needed to access EU funds.

“We will continue to follow closely the next steps of the ongoing adoption process and then review the final law adopted,” he said.

Poland is due to receive 23.9 billion euros ($25.8 billion) in grants and 11.5 billion euros in cheap loans from the EU’s post-pandemic Recovery and Resilience Facility.

The EU has locked Poland out of funding citing its apparent failure to overhaul or reverse changes to its judicial system, which the Commission considers a threat to the rule of law.

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