Poland’s parliament clear judicial reforms bill, to unblock EU COVID-19 recovery funds

In a significant development, the Polish Parliament voted in favour of a bill that will replace a contested disciplinary chamber for judges with a new body; the development clears the way for Poland to tap billions of euros from the EU’s COVID-19 recovery funds.

Earlier, more than 35 billion euros in grants and cheap loans were put on hold following a dispute over the rule of law.

On June 2, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is slated to visit Warsaw to mark the approval of the plan.

According to critics of Poland’s ruling nationalists, the judicial reform bill does not go far enough in ensuring that judges are not subject to political pressure.

Poland’s ruling coalition was split on how to implement the reform, with the arch-conservative United Poland party of Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, a junior partner in government, opposing plans for an impartiality test for judges it said could paralyse the court system.

The final version of the bill states that the impartiality test cannot be used retrospectively on cases in which a verdict has been handed down.

“The final version of the adopted Act on the Supreme Court takes into account all the key reservations of United Poland to the project,” tweeted Poland’s deputy justice minister and United Poland lawmaker Sebastian Kaleta.

The European Union has maintained that Warsaw must implement a ruling from the EU’s court of Justice which requires the chamber to be dissolved in order to get the funds.

The EU’s Court of Justice had imposed a 1 million euros a day fine on Poland for non-compliance.

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