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Poland will change a controversial system of punishing judges that has been at the center of a legal dispute with the EU, the country’s de facto leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on Saturday.
The European Commission has given Poland until August 16 to explain how it will comply with a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which last month ruled that the judicial disciplinary regime violated EU law. The commission warned Warsaw that it could face fines if it fails to do so.
Kaczynski said he did not recognize the judgment of the Court of Justice and that it went beyond what is allowed by the EU treaties. But he said his Conservative-Nationalist coalition would “destroy the Disciplinary Chamber in the form in which it now functions”.
The Disciplinary Chamber for Judges is one of the judicial reforms implemented by the ruling party in recent years and which has been harshly condemned by Brussels for undermining judicial independence.
Kaczynski said the project outlining the regime changes — which currently allow judges to be punished for the content of their sentences — will be submitted in September.
“That will be a test of whether the EU is ready to show at least a semblance of goodwill, or whether the rule is that Poland should be governed by those chosen by the EU institutions,” he said in an interview. with the state news agency PAP.
However, he added that this does not mean that the room “will not function in any form”. “No one expects this from us, but it will be a very different entity,” he said, claiming the slump had nothing to do with the Court of Justice ruling.
Kaczynski’s intervention, who founded the ruling Law and Justice party and is widely regarded as Poland’s most powerful politician, comes amid fierce debate in the coalition over how to respond to the Court of Justice’s ruling.
On Friday, Poland’s aggressive Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro at the head of United Poland, one of Law and Justice’s two smaller coalition partners, insisted that Poland would not fall back on EU pressure, accusing the EU of blackmail.
“The ECJ says that Poles are not allowed to do what the Germans, Dutch or Spaniards are allowed to do. That is a colonial mentality, which has nothing to do with the law,” he said in an interview with the Rzeczpospolita newspaper, adding that Poland should not remain in the EU “at any cost”.
Fierce divisions over how to respond to the ECJ ruling are the latest in a series of disputes that keep the coalition afloat, and have raised the question of whether it will survive until the end of its term in 2023.
Asked if his party would stay in the coalition if Poland made concessions to Brussels, Ziobro said there is a “limit to compromise”.
“The basic definition of our interests and position in the EU should be the rule that Poles cannot be treated worse than others,” he said. “If we agree on that in the area of the judiciary, we get a similar treatment in every other area.”