Judges in Poland gagged
Despite harsh criticism from the opposition and the EU, Poland's President Andrzej Duda last week signed a new law which foresees harsh penalties for judges. If members of the judiciary call into question the judicial reform which the PiS has been implementing in a step-by-step process since 2016 they now face fines, demotion and even dismissal. Journalists see the legal dispute between the EU and Warsaw escalating.
Cut off Warsaw's funds if necessary
Brussels must take a tough stance if the Polish government refuses to yield in the legal dispute, the Financial Times urges:
“The EU should then eschew talk of a conciliatory 'reset' with Poland that has surfaced since a new European Commission took office late last year. Brussels must continue to use the European Court to challenge PiS's attempts to cow the judiciary. Above all, EU states should not shrink from linking future disbursement of lucrative structural funds to upholding the rule of law. Membership of the EU club comes with strings, for good reason. States cannot expect to enjoy all the benefits without following the rules.”
Munition for the election campaign
Commentator Rafał Zakrzewski in Gazeta Wyborcza believes that there is an election strategy behind the judicial reforms:
“There is the tactical idea of using the critical attitude of some citizens towards the courts to fuel hatred of an allegedly elitist, rich and lazy professional caste. This is to be used as the fuel for Andrzej Duda's campaign [for the presidential elections]. ... PiS strategists must have conducted polls that indicate that they will benefit from attacking the judges. ... I think that despite the resistance, the war with the courts will remain the driving force in Duda's campaign. The incumbent president and his team have invested too much energy and too much emotion in him to let him go down now.”