By Peter Spiegel, FT Brussels Briefing.
March 11, 2016
Almost since the day it retook power in October, Poland’s Law and Justice government has courted controversy over policies party boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said are part of a plan to “fix” the country. At the centre of the squabbling has been a law passed in December that overhauls the way Warsaw’s constitutional court operates, changes that critics say limits its ability to strike down government policies it finds objectionable.
The law has drawn scrutiny from Brussels, which launched its first-ever review of a member’s government for possible violations of the EU’s “fundamental values” after the measure was passed. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, which was asked to review the law as well, came down hard on Warsaw in a draft decision that was leaked to a Polish newspaper. This week it was the turn of the court itself, which ruled that the laws curbing its powers were unconstitutional. But in a decision that stunned many, Poland’s prime minister, Beata Szydlo, announced she would not allow the court’s ruling to be officially published, meaning it will not be enforceable. “This is not a judgement, it is a political position,” said Poland’s foreign minister.
The decision led to demonstrations outside the Polish chancellery yesterday, protests that were colourfully documented in a live blog of one of the country’s largest newspapers, Gazeta Wyborcza. But things are likely to only get worse today when the Venice Commission is scheduled to come out with its formal decision on the law, a report that the European Commission has said will influence whether to sanction Warsaw for violating EU norms. The Venice Commission’s announcement will come after Poland’s justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, announced he was formally launching an investigation into who leaked its earlier draft, Rzeczpospolita reported.
As ever, there are no signs Law and Justice is in any mood to back down.