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Poland Passes Law That EU Says Threatens Country's Democracy
23 July 2017, 12:44 | Floyd Cook
Protests outside the Presidential Palace
To become law, the bill must be signed by President Andrzej Duda.
Two other bills on a key judicial body and on regular courts also await Duda's signature.
On Wednesday, the European Union gave Poland a week to shelve the judicial reforms that Brussels says would put courts under direct government control.
The sweeping powers to dismiss and appoint the country's judges backed by the ruling Law and Justice Party do not bode well for civil and political liberties in Poland.
The hardline prime minister said Hungary would use all European legal means to show solidarity with Poland amid what he described as a "European inquisition" over the courts law.
Thousands of government opponents are gathering in Warsaw, Krakow and other cities across Poland to urge President Andrzej Duda to reject legislation that would give the ruling party control of the Supreme Court and the judiciary. But critics say the judicial reorganization is the clearest sign yet of the populist, anti-democratic direction in which Law and Justice is taking Poland, a country that overthrew communism in one of the earliest and most fervent democratic movements that swept Europe in 1989.
"I wanted to be here on this historic day when our freedoms for which we fought for more than 25 years are being taken away", said Piotr, 48, who came to the protests in Warsaw with his five-year-old son.
Opposition lawmakers also fiercely contested the bill, resulting in heated arguments in parliament.
Supreme Court chief Malgorzata Gersdorf says, on average, the court takes seven months to rule on a case but she calls that a good result, even by European standards, given that the court handles the most hard and complicated matters.
A crowd in front of the Presidential Palace, carrying Polish and EU flags responded by chanting, "Free Poland, European!" The EU has criticized the legislation and has threatened to impose sanctions on Poland.
European Union president, Donald Tusk, Poland's former prime minister, has appealed to President Andrzej Duda for a meeting to seek ways out of the situation that, he said, goes against EU values and is destructive to Poland's global image. "We will not be intimidated by Polish and foreign defenders of the interests of the elite".
Duda has so far not accepted an invitation for talks on the issue from European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, Japan Times reported. He said the Law and Justice party had no right to destroy that achievement.
The threat to the independence of the Supreme Court is the latest maneuver by the right-wing party, which gained power in 2015, to bring the judiciary under its control.
The bill will go to parliament's upper house on Friday, where PiS has an absolute majority.
"Poland's president should be concerned about a situation that is, let's say, serious", Tusk said. The poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, amid large street protests against the party's plan for the judiciary.
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