Polish PM slams ‘destabilising’ Supreme Court ruling

WARSAW (AFP) – Poland’s Prime Minister on Friday accused the Supreme Court of “destabilising the legal order”, in comments that drew the European Union (EU)’s concern, after it ruled that judges chosen by new government-backed institutions were not authorised to issue verdicts.

The Supreme Court decided on Thursday that the judges were not free from outside influence, further inflaming a long-running controversy over reforms by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Since 2015, the PiS has passed a slew of judicial reforms arguing that they tackle corruption in a system still stuck in the communist era, but critics including top European judicial bodies said they undermine the rule of law and threaten democracy.

European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand refused to comment on the verdict on Thursday but said “we are however concerned about statements of the Polish authorities regarding the follow-up to the Supreme Court judgement”.

Wigand told reporters that “the independence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland have been seriously undermined and it is no longer able to provide an effective constitutional review”.

Reacting to Wigand’s comments, Poland’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the Commission’s representative in Warsaw for talks on Saturday, Ministry Official Pawel Jablonski tweeted on Friday.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he would refer the decision, which applies to more than 500 judges, to the Constitutional Court – controlled by judges nominated following the PiS reforms.

Morawiecki told reporters that the “unacceptable” verdict had cast doubt on tens of thousands of rulings already delivered by the contested judges.

But Supreme Court spokesman Judge Michal Laskowski said on Thursday that the verdict did not have retroactive force and would not apply to court cases that had already begun. His colleague Judge Wlodzimierz Wrobel had argued on Thursday that it was the PiS reforms that had “led to tremendous uncertainty and chaos”.

He said courts in other countries were at times refusing to cooperate with their counterparts in Poland because of the uncertainty over their independence. On Thursday, too, another controversial reform that proposes disciplining judges who question the government’s reforms moved one step closer to becoming law: the PiS-controlled parliament approving it.