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Poland backtracks on Supreme Court law contested by EU

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) proposed a legislative amendment on Wednesday backtracking on Supreme Court reforms at the centre of its conflict with the European Union over democratic standards.

In October the European Court of Justice said in an injunction that Poland had to suspend an overhaul of the Supreme Court, which effectively allowed the PiS to hand-pick top judges.

A justification of the draft amendment to the Supreme Court was published on the Polish parliament's website on Wednesday. "The amendment constitutes an execution of the European Court of Justice injunction," it said.

Part of a sweeping overhaul of the judiciary, the reforms passed in July forced some top court judges into early retirement. The PiS said the changes were needed to make the courts more efficient, ignoring a series of EU warnings to backtrack.

The law lowered the retirement age of judges to 65 from 70. Since its implementation, over 20 Supreme Court judges — around one-third of the total — have been forced to quit.

The proposed amendment stipulates judges who were retired can continue to work at the court, although their retirement remains valid.

After the European Court of Justice ruling, the head of the PiS and Poland's de facto leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Warsaw would observe the EU law but would appeal against the EU court's decision. The ruling, however, carries no right to appeal.

The amendment proposal comes at a time of public concern over a case of an alleged corruption attempt involving the former head of financial market regulator.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Justyna Pawlak and David Stamp)

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