Poland’s president to veto bills on judicial reform

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said on Monday that he would veto two bills which would give politicians wide-ranging powers over the country’s judiciary.

The proposals have drawn fierce criticism from the EU and sparked protests, with tens of thousands of Poles taking to the streets to rally against the changes which they fear would undermine the independence of the judiciary.

In a news conference on Monday morning, Mr Duda said that he would veto two of three contentious bills — one that would have forced all members of the Supreme Court to step down, except for those kept on by the president; and a second that would have given parliament control over the National Judicial Council, the body that appoints judges.

“I regret that I, as president of the Republic of Poland, wasn’t consulted over this initiative before it reached the Sejm [the lower house of parliament]. I couldn’t carry out consultations [on this matter] and nor could the other interested entities,” Mr Duda said.

“And that is why I decided that I will veto two reforms, on the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council, because due to the Sejm’s proposals, they are connected.”

He did not mention a third bill, which would allow the justice minister to fire the heads of lower courts.

The Polish zloty, which has come under pressure as the battle over the judicial reforms has unfolded, jumped on the news, trading up 0.8 per cent at PLN4.25 against the euro.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party claims that the changes are necessary to overhaul an inefficient system that has not been purged since the collapse of communism almost three decades ago.

However, in recent days the legislation has faced mounting international criticism. The US State Department on Friday urged Poland to “ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland’s constitution or international legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers”.

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