MEPs scold Poland over constitutional crisis

The vote escalates EU worries with Poland's constitutional crisis, as a solution between the government and the courts seems to be out of reach.

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Poland EU parliament

MEPs have voted on a non-binding resolution criticising the ruling Law and Justice Party for interfering with Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal.

The resolution passed 513 to 142, with 30 abstentions.

Previously, the EU Commission launched discussions into Poland’s affairs under the Rule of Law Framework.

The framework was introduced in 2014 to deal with “with systemic threats to the rule of law.” It allows the EU to examine and make recommendations on legal systems to ensure they are compatible with EU standards and treaties.

Concerns have been growing for months that the Law and Justice Party is undermining democracy in Poland.

Swept into power in 2015, the party has had its fair share of controversies both in Poland and abroad, including reneging a plan to accept refugees.

Poland has been embroiled in a Constitutional Crisis since October 2015. The Constitutional Tribunal, which resolves issues involving state institutions, had five judges elected to its bench by the outgoing party, the Civic Platform. However, after the election the Law and Justice Party significantly changed the rules by requiring a two-thirds majority vote.

The Polish Senate approved the changes, effectively curbing the power of the court to make decisions.

Almost immediately, many Poles took to the streets to protest what they saw as government overreaching its powers.

European leaders were also quick to criticise the government’s decision, with EU commissioner Frans Timmermans saying “I do believe a solution is urgent and the starting point for the dialogue should be full respect of the constitutional framework,” and now the European Parliament has taken steps to increase EU involvement in Polish legal affairs.

In March, the court invalidated a law that would change the way the court worked. However, the government has refused to accept the judgement, leading to a standoff between the court and the Law and Justice Party.