January 7, 2020 / 4:29 PM / 14 days ago

Poland's Senate speaker to seek EU advice on judicial reforms

FILE PHOTO: A guard officer walks into the Supreme Court in Warsaw, Poland August 13, 2018. Picture taken August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s Senate speaker will go to Brussels on Wednesday to consult European Union officials over how to limit the damage from Warsaw’s latest clash with its EU partners over reforms of the judiciary.

The nationalist Polish government rushed draft legislation through the lower house of parliament, or Sejm, last month that would allow the dismissal of judges who question its judicial reforms.

The European Commission, the EU executive, says the legislation would imperil the rule of law in Poland and has launched legal steps against Warsaw over earlier reforms of the judiciary to try to preserve the independence of courts.

The Sejm is controlled by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which says the reforms are necessary to make the judiciary more efficient and effective.

But the Senate is dominated by the opposition and could redraft or reject the draft law, though the Sejm would still have the power to overturn the Senate’s decision.

“I am going (to Brussels) out of concern for my country ... not following the rule of law and democracy could lead to Poland getting cut off from EU funds,” Senate speaker Tomasz Grodzki, whose position makes him Poland’s most powerful opposition figure, told Reuters.

“One should do everything to avoid this danger and to make sure this situation doesn’t come to pass.”

The Commission has warned it could cut funds paid out to EU member states that undermine courts and the rule of law.

Grodzki said he would meet European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova and that Polish Senate lawyers would consult with Commission experts.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Editing by Marcin Goclowski and Timothy Heritage

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