Warsaw (AFP) – A Polish official on Saturday accused European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans of blocking a bid to resolve Warsaw’s dispute with the EU over the country’s controversial court reforms.
Timmermans, who is due to visit Warsaw on Monday to discuss the matter, said earlier this week that Poland had failed to allay fears that it is undermining judicial independence.
He called for a formal hearing of EU states to consider unprecedented penalties and said he would continue pressing Poland’s right-wing government to reverse course on the reforms.
“I get the impression that part of the European Commission, especially its president Jean-Claude Juncker, would like to resolve this matter, but what’s standing in the way are certain issues relating to commissioner Timmermans,” Polish presidential spokesman Krzysztof Lapinski told public radio on Saturday.
“It’s problematic. If there’s someone on the other side who approaches the matter very ambitiously, emotionally and personally, then it will be hard to strike a compromise, even if only a few weeks ago it seemed like things were heading in that direction.”
Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government began making changes to the judiciary after coming to power in late 2015.
It says the reforms are needed to combat corruption and overhaul the judicial system still haunted by the communist era.
But Timmermans, who is from the Netherlands, warned on Wednesday that with the lower courts already under threat, “it is now the Polish Supreme Court which is at risk of coming under political control.”
Around a third of Poland’s supreme court judges risk being fired or forced to retire next month under the reforms, he added.
Brussels in December triggered so-called article seven proceedings against Poland over “systemic threats” to the rule of law, which could eventually see Warsaw’s EU voting rights suspended.
Hungary has already said it would veto such a step against its key ally but Brussels is hoping the proceedings will have significant symbolic power.