‘Hands off Poland!’
That is the message from nationalist protesters who gathered in Warsaw to express outrage after the EU said it would take legal action over Polish plans to give politicians more power in hiring and firing judges.
The demonstrators’ anger was aimed, among others, at Donald Tusk – former Polish Prime Minister and now head of the European Council.
Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro turned his wrath on the European Commission’s Dutch Vice President, Frans Timmermans.“We all know from school, from history class, that the Netherlands has a long experience in colonialism but bad habits need to be stamped out and I would like to ask Mr Timmermans to stop speaking with such insolence and arrogance about Poland and to Poles and the Polish authorities because we deserve respect,” Ziobro told reporters.
“And we expect and demand respect.”
Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Timmermans gave one month for Poland to allay EU concerns.
EU warns it could freeze Poland's voting rights if Warsaw pushes ahead with controversial judicial reforms pic.twitter.com/EIqbqQ3iCI— AFP news agency (@AFP) 26 juillet 2017
The EU says the Polish reforms undermine judicial independence and break EU rules. Both accusations are denied by Warsaw.
After nationwide protests in Poland by those who see the reform project as an anti-democratic power grab, the country’s president Andrzej Duda vetoed the most controversial part governing Supreme Court nominations. He said he was acting in line with the constitution.
But Duda approved a less controversial bill intended to reform the lower courts.
Despite his veto and warnings from Brussels, Poland’s ruling right-wing, eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS) seems determined to press ahead with its project.
The government says the reforms are needed to streamline a slow, outdated legal system and make judges more accountable to the people.
It has already tightened control of state media and taken steps that critics said politicised the constitutional court.