The government presents a White Paper on the reforms of the Polish justice system
At today's meeting with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki presented a White Paper on the reforms of the Polish justice system. The almost one hundred pages document contains a list of reasons why the reforms of the judiciary were necessary and responds to the most important reservations expressed by the European Commission.
The eight chapters describe both the situation from before the changes – and the problems with which the Polish justice system was struggling – as well as the description of the most important reforms, with an indication of the way in which they improve the quality of the judiciary.
The government points to the large similarities between the laws in force in Poland and the solutions that have been present in other European Union countries for years. For instance, the procedure of appointing the National Council of the Judiciary is only slightly different from the system used in Spain; the provisions on the extraordinary appeal have their equivalent in France, and those on the postponement of the retirement of judges - in the United Kingdom.
These provisions have been functioning for a long time in countries with strong democratic systems and have never been considered a threat to the rule of law. The White Paper shows that they should not give rise to concern also in the case of Poland.
Polish judges enjoy great independence. And the reforms additionally strengthen it: currently, individual judges may no longer be transferred between departments without their consent (until now, the President of the Court made that decision). Also, a random case assignment mechanism has been introduced, which limits to the minimum the possibility of manipulating the composition of the judiciary. It increases the independence of judges not only towards court administration, but indirectly also towards the Minister of Justice.
The White Paper also includes quotes from judgements of international courts and opinions of Venice Commission, which have been failed to be considered so far, despite that it results from them that Polish reforms conform European standards. The Venice Commission have indicated many times that e.g. if the judicial councils are excessively dominated by judges, it may lead to negative outcomes, especially to misunderstood professional solidarity and decrease in the trust in the judiciary – and so it should be prevented.
In the last chapters the governments raises the issue of protecting constitutional identity of Member States and their right to make sovereign decisions within the limits of Union Treaties. The Polish reforms not only fall within these boundaries, but also as such fully meet the European standards. In this situation, the application of the Article 7 procedure is excessive and creates a dangerous precedent, as it entails the risk that it will be used without proper justification in the future also against other EU states.
The government indents to continue its dialogue with EU institutions and Member States, so as to resolve all the doubts and concerns for the state of the rule of law in Poland.