World News

Polish judiciary changes are a 'destruction': EU commissioner

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s overhaul of its judiciary constitutes “destruction” not reform, EU Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova said in an interview published on Saturday, amid growing concern that Poland’s nationalists are seeking to muzzle judges.

FILE PHOTO: European Values and Transparency Commissioner-designate Vera Jourova of Czech Republic speaks during her hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Since coming to power in 2015, Poland’s eurosceptic, nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has introduced a series of judicial reforms that EU officials and democracy activists say may breach the bloc’s standards on the rule of law.

Its most recent reforms aim to discipline judges who question court appointments under new rules, introducing measures that critics say are designed to silence dissent.

“This is no longer a targeted intervention against individual black sheep, similar to other EU member states, but a case of carpet bombing,” Jourova told German weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

“This is no reform, it’s destruction.”

Her comments came as over a thousand demonstrators gathered in front of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw to support the reforms, arguing they are necessary to protect Poland’s sovereignty.

Protesters carried Polish flags and placards saying “EU’s politicians, hands off Polish courts” and “We support the reform of courts.” A series of protests against the reforms have also taken place across Poland in recent months.

PiS says the reforms will make the court system more efficient and root out the leftovers of communism. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, signed the most recent changes into law this week.

Jourova said the Commission was scrutinizing the new law and keeping all legal options open.

She visited Poland in January and met with a number of Polish officials, including Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, Senate speaker and opposition member Tomasz Grodzki and Poland’s Human Rights Commissioner Adam Bodnar.

During her visit, she expressed a willingness to enter into a dialogue with Poland’s government.

Her visit came after the European Commission said it was “very concerned” about the Polish changes to the judiciary.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Christoph Steitz and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Editing by Ros Russell