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EU increases pressure on Poland over judicial reform

[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] said [press release] Tuesday that Poland must address actions it has recently taken to undermine its own judicial system and the independence of Polish judges. In July the Polish Parliament [official website], under the control of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) [party website, in Polish], approved a bill [JURIST report] that would allow the legislative body to appoint Supreme Court judges. In response, the EU initiated what is known as the infringement procedure [materials] against Poland. The infringement procedure empowers the European Commission to" take legal action ... against an EU country that fails to implement EU law. The Commission may refer the issue to the Court of Justice, which, in certain cases, can impose financial penalties." The European Commission has now initiated the second step of the procedure, which requires the Commission to send a formal request to the country in question to comply with EU law. The Polish government has yet to file a response to the European Commission's request. The EU has stated that if Poland does not address its recent attempt to reform its judicial system, the EU may pursue charges against the country in an attempt to have fines imposed on Poland.

PiS has drawn ire from those in the international community for threatening democracy in Poland. In August Polish President Andrzej Duda [official website] vetoed [JURIST report] two proposed laws that threaten to limit the judiciary's independence. The Polish Parliament is currently attempted to pass modified versions of both vetoed laws. In August 2016 Polish prosecutors began an investigation [JURIST report] into Constitutional Tribunal [official website] head, Andrzej Rzeplinski, to determine if he abused his power in preventing judges appointed by the ruling party to take part in decisions. In June of last year the European Commission issued a warning to Poland over the appointment of the three judges. The EU began examining Poland's decision regarding the Constitutional Court [JURIST reports] in January 2016. That February the Polish government passed a controversial surveillance law [JURIST report] that grants the government [press release, Polish] greater access to digital data and broader use of surveillance for law enforcement. In December 2015 the leader of the European Parliament [official website] compared PiS' rise to power in Poland to a coup [BBC report], leading to Parliament calling for an apology. PiS has rejected [DW report] criticisms that its policies are undermining democracy in Poland.

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