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article imagePolish lawmakers amend controversial court reforms

By AFP     Apr 12, 2018 in Politics

Poland's parliament, dominated by the governing conservatives, on Thursday adopted amendments to controversial court reforms that had led the European Union to launch unprecedented legal action against Warsaw.

Brussels in December triggered Article 7 of the EU treaty over what it sees as "systemic threats" to the independence of the Polish judiciary from the country's right-wing government -- a move that could lead to never-before-used sanctions.

The amendments concern laws affecting the National Council of the Judiciary, KRS -- a body overseeing judicial impartiality -- the Supreme Court, as well as the common courts.

The governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has said the changes are a response to the EU's concerns, but the opposition and the Supreme Court say the modifications are merely cosmetic.

One of the amendments is meant to curb the power of the justice minister to dismiss a court president or vice-president.

In order to do so, the minister would need the agreement of the court leadership as well as the KRS.

But the opposition sees the amendment as cosmetic because the current KRS members are all judges close to the justice minister.

Another amendment modifies the new retirement age of judges, which it had lowered from 70 years to 65 for men and 60 for women. The draft law would put the retirement age at 65 for both genders.

The Supreme Court had slammed the amendments before the vote.

"Unfortunately we have to state that the proposed changes are of a fictitious, cosmetic nature," the Supreme Court said in a statement.

"That's because they don't actually serve to resolve the conflict over the rule of law, but instead have the goal of creating the illusion that there's a will to end the crisis."

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