WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president proposed changes Monday to the laws regulating top judicial bodies in a bid to prevent a power grab of the courts by the nation’s ruling party.
President Andrzej Duda put forward legislative revisions that would strengthen the president’s role but also could address the European Union’s concerns that the governing party plans to put Poland’s courts under its political control.
Duda’s proposals could ease the conflict with the EU, but it also could put him on a collision course with the ruling Law and Justice party, which presented its own plan for overhauling Poland’s legal system earlier this year.
Duda’s proposals give the president the power to appoint and dismiss judges. They call for a large majority of lawmakers to choose members of a key judicial body, the National Council of the Judiciary. They also reject the justice minister’s plan to immediately fire the country’s current Supreme Court judges.
Duda also recommending giving Poles a way to make official complaints about final court verdicts they consider unjust.
His proposals need to be debated and approved by the parliament, which is currently controlled by the ruling party.
Legal experts said Duda’s proposals were an improvement on the party’s draft, but they had questions about individual provisions.
“It is a good thing that the president has put a halt to something that could have led to bad consequences on the EU forum,” judicial council spokesman Waldemar Zurek said. He stressed that he needed to see the full bill in writing before he could assess it.
Following consultations with party leaders later Monday, the president backed away from a proposal that would have required changes to Poland’s Constitution but that got little support.
In July, prompted by street protests and EU criticism, Duda vetoed two bills proposed by the ruling party and promised to hammer out his own plans. Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the president was delaying reforms the courts needed to be more efficient and fair.
Duda argued at the time that the party’s bills on the Supreme Court and a top judicial body gave the party and the justice minister, who is also prosecutor-general, too much power over judges.
Earlier Monday, Kaczynski said that recent talks with the president over his proposals exposed a “far-reaching difference of views.”
Kaczynski’s remark suggested a growing rift between the ruling party and Duda, who won the presidency in 2015 on the Law and Justice ticket and had fully supported the party’s policies until July.
EU authorities held a debate in Brussels Monday on ways of ensuring that Poland observes the rule of law.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said officials would study Duda’s proposals “very carefully.”
“There’s still a lot, a lot, we need to do before we can say that the problem has been solved,” Timmermans added.