Polish president sets out own changes to court, constitution

Polish president sets out own changes to court, constitution

September 25th, 2017 by Associated Press in National International

Poland's President Andrzej Duda announces his proposals for reorganizing the Supreme Court and a top judicial body at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Poland's most powerful politician, ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski says they vary on the proposals. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Poland's president on Monday proposed his own changes to the nation's top judicial bodies and the constitution in a dispute that is at the heart of a standoff with the European Union.

The plans could potentially put President Andrzej Duda on a collision course with the ruling conservative party, because he made some substantial changes to the sweeping proposals put forward by the party to reform the justice system and judiciary.

The party's moves have drawn condemnation from EU leaders and the opposition, which say the party is steering toward political control of the courts. The party says the courts need to be more efficient and fair.

In Brussels, EU authorities will hold a debate Monday on ways of ensuring that Poland observes the rule of law.

In July, prompted by street protests, Duda vetoed bills proposed by the ruling party and promised to hammer out his own plans, angering party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who said that it would delay the reforms.

Duda argued at the time that the party's bills on the Supreme Court and a top judicial body gave the party and the justice minister, who is also prosecutor-general, too much power over judges.

Duda's proposals call for the president to appoint and dismiss judges, and require a large majority of lawmakers to choose members of a key judicial body, the National Council of the Judiciary.

However, one of the proposals requires a change in the constitution, a move that needs approval from most parties in parliament, and a vote. Duda invited the parties for consultations later Monday to sound out the level of backing for the measure.

Earlier Monday, Kaczynski said that his recent talks with the president over his proposals exposed a "far-reaching difference of views" that will take major efforts to be streamlined.

Kaczynski's words suggested there is a rift between the ruling party and Duda, who won the presidency in 2015 on the party's ticket and until the July vetoes had fully supported the party's policies, even in defiance of the EU.