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Polish parliament defies EU by passing controversial law to fire judges

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Demonstrators hold a rally to protest against changes to Poland's judiciary planned by the ruling Law and Justice party near the building of parliament in Warsaw, Poland.
Demonstrators hold a rally to protest against changes to Poland's judiciary planned by the ruling Law and Justice party near the building of parliament in Warsaw, Poland.   -  
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AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski - Czarek Sokolowski
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Defying Brussels, Poland's lower parliament has passed a law allowing the government to fire judges opposed to judicial reforms, despite widespread opposition including protests in cities across the country.

The Law and Justice Party (PiS) says the measures are needed to control the justice system.

It allows the government to discipline judges who speak out against changes the ruling party made to the judiciary, even when a jurist's views conform with European Union law and Poland's Constitution.

The bill still faces a vote in Poland's Senate, where the opposition has a slim majority. But the upper house has little real power and will be able to delay passage of the bill but not block it entirely. It will then need the signature of the president, who supports it.

It was passed in the lower house on Friday after two days of emotional debate, with government supporters defending it as a way of bringing order to what they say is a ``chaotic'' justice system and opposition lawmakers saying it threatens democracy.

The European Union called on Polish authorities a day before to suspend the legislation, citing concerns about judicial independence.

Read more: Poland could be forced to leave EU by its judicial reforms, top court says

Krzysztof Mularczyk, political editor at Poland IN, told Euronews that talk of Poland being kicked out of the EU because of the judges law was "alarmist". He told Euronews Tonight that the only way Poland could leave the EU would be through invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and follow the process currently being pursued by the UK.

"There's no support for Poland leaving the EU in the government and there's currently even less support amongst the people." He said that he EU could impose sanctions on Poland over the law, but that would only likely raise support for Poland ultimately leaving the bloc.

On Thursday evening, another protest took place in front of the parliament in Warsaw.

The members of PiS, the populist party that has governed Poland since 2015, argued that many of the country's judges have become too outspoken politically and are on the side of a liberal political opposition that seeks to block the party's efforts to fulfill its democratic mandate.

The party drafted the legislation following a November ruling by the EU's top court. The European Court of Justice decision left it up to Polish courts to determine if a new disciplinary chamber for judges within Poland's Supreme Court and a separate council that appoints judges were sufficiently independent.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro told parliament the government would not buckle and intended to “bring the reforms to a conclusion.”

Borys Budka, a lawmaker with the centrist Civic Platform party, accused Law and Justice of taking control of the courts to protect itself.

“You know that the time of your defeat is approaching when you will be responsible for all these scandals before Polish courts,” Budka told the assembly.

“You are an anti-Polish, anti-European party, because what you are currently doing is moving Poland out of the EU," Budka said. “It is an attempt to introduce the standards of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin...You want impunity, you want your judges who will acquit you later.”

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