Poland paid bitter price for concessions to EU on courts: Kaczynski

FILE PHOTO: Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling party Law and Justice, speaks during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Beata Szydlo at the party headquarters in Warsaw, Poland November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland has paid a bitter price for making concessions to the European Union on its judicial reforms, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling conservatives and the country’s paramount leader, said on Tuesday.

Last week, Poland’s government, run by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, told Brussels it was willing to make some changes to the reforms that the European Commissions had said subverted the rule of law.

“The price is significant, it’s bitter,” Kaczynski told the conservative news site “I’m not going to hide that we model ourselves on the (Hungarian) Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has often had to make unpleasant concessions.”

Kaczynski added that he would have preferred to go ahead with the reforms, but internal and external “circumstances” have forced the changes.

Under the changes, the justice minister now would have seek the opinion of judges before deciding whether to dismiss a court president. PiS was also willing to equalize the compulsory retirement age of female and male judges at 65 years.

Under the original judicial overhaul, the justice minister was granted discretionary powers to replace court presidents without seeking any secondary opinion, without providing any justification and with no review.

The initial judicial overhaul also set the compulsory retirement age at 60 years for female judges and 65 for male judges, meaning almost 40 percent of Supreme Court judges would be forced into retirement.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly