Polish president sees flaws in contentious law on top court

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has veto power, must now sign the bill for it to become law.

Duda also said if parliament doesn't pass the amendment, he will veto the second bill that would force out the current Supreme Court judges.

Orban spoke a day after Poland's Senate approved new legislation that gives politicians significant influence over the nation's Supreme Court.

"Mass protests in Poland in recent days failed to change the minds of the ruling Law and Justice Party", NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

"Subjugating the courts to the governing party in the way proposed by Law and Justice (PiS) will ruin the already tarnished view of Polish democracy", Timmermans said in the statement.

The ruling populist Law and Justice party says the justice system is inefficient and needs radical reform.

The Polish bill calls for replacing all Supreme Court judges except those elected by a judicial panel chosen by parliament.

In response to the move. the European Commission said it would implement an unprecedented Article 7 procedure, which means asking EU governments to formally state that they regard the rule of law as being under threat in Poland.

Even before the Senate voted on the measure, Duda posted a tweet announcing that he'll meet with the president of the Supreme Court, Malgorzata Gersdorf, on Monday at 11 a.m.

The European Commission has warned it could strip Poland of its European Union voting rights over the changes the government is making to the judiciary.

Beata Szydlo said Thursday night that the legislation was a result of public criticism of the legal system's inefficiency and blamed the public outcry it has triggered on the "frustration" of the opposition. "We will not allow ourselves to be pushed out of the European Union". Earlier this week it cleared the lower house and will now go to President Andrzej Duda. "We will not be intimidated by Polish and foreign defenders of the interests of the elite", the prime minister said in an address on state television. Critics say the bill kills judicial independence and puts judges under political control.

The changes were backed by the Law and Justice party, also known as as PiS.

Senator Aleksander Bobko, of the right-wing PiS party, said that ending the term of the first Supreme Court president was an obvious violation of the constitution.

Since coming into power in 2015, the PiS has sought to tighten government influence over courts, and brought prosecutors and state media under direct government control.

"Our generation succeeded in putting Poland back on track and ensuring the separation of powers", the former president said in the northern city of Gdansk.

Poland's upper house of Parliament on Saturday passed a sweeping and controversial judicial bill despite massive nationwide protests and the threat of European Union sanctions.

The Senate's decision comes less than a month after President Donald Trump delivered a landmark speech to the Polish people in which he praised Poland's "place in a strong and democratic Europe".

  • Joey Payne