Poland defends democracy, rejects criticism on reforms

Poland denies that criticism on reforms is threat to democracy

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of ruling party Law and Justice Party, attends a remembrance ceremony for the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, March 10, 2016.

A Polish ruling party official on Friday denied a pan-European rights body’s suggestions that a change of the country’s constitutional court posed a threat to its democracy and dismissed a critical report on the reforms, calling it “non-binding”.

The Council of Europe's Venice Commission, an advisory panel on constitutional matters, is due to deliver an opinion later on Friday on the reforms, which have already come under fire from the European Union and rights groups.

The leader of the country’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) Jaroslaw Kaczynski rejected a leaked draft of the opinion which said the reforms could endanger the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Poland, as “legally absurd.”

"(Poland's) democracy is in very good shape – there are demonstrations, meetings, protests," a senior PiS official, Beata Kempa, told public broadcaster TVP Info.

"We're not sending in police with bullets against people, they are allowed to express their views ... The Venice Commission's opinion is not binding. We can take it into account, (but) we don't have to take it into account."

The eurosceptic ruling party, since coming into power last October, has enacted a law increasing the number of judges at the constitutional court required to make rulings and changing the order in which cases are heard.

It has also rejected court appointments made by the previous government, defending the changes saying they are needed to reflect the new balance of power in Poland while critics say they have paralysed the court’s work to review government’s legislation. The EU, which Poland joined in 2004, and the United States have also expressed concerns.

The European Commission, the EU executive, will closely watch Friday's report to decide later this month whether Warsaw's reforms breach EU rules and warrant punishment.

The Polish constitutional court recently said the new rules affecting it were illegal, in a ruling rejected by the government.

Andrzej Rzeplinski, right, head of Poland's Constitutional Court and judges attend a session at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

"More and more, the head of the constitutional court reminds me of an ayatollah in Iran," Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told state broadcaster Polskie Radio on Thursday.

TRTWorld and agencies