Poland on brink of backing down in EU legal scrap

The Polish government is on the verge of giving in on a key point of its rule-of-law feud with the European Union after Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the country’s deputy prime minister and ruling party leader, said it would drop a controversial judicial oversight mechanism.

Kaczynski said the so-called disciplinary chamber for judges would be dissolved in September. The EU has said the chamber goes against the bloc’s fundamental principles by undermining judges’ independence.

“We will abolish the Disciplinary Chamber as it currently stands and therefore the subject of the dispute will disappear,” Kaczynski said in an interview with PAP, the state-owned news agency. “It will also be a test of whether the EU has at least the appearance of showing goodwill.”

Campaigners have criticized the chamber as emblematic of a wider erosion of democratic norms in Poland. The EU’s top court last month ruled the it was incompatible with fundamental rights, and European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders set Warsaw an August 16 deadline to remove it.

Kaczynski’s comments came a day after Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro accused the EU of blackmail over the issue and warned the country should not remain part of the EU at any cost. “I am a staunch opponent of succumbing to the illegal blackmail of the European Union,” he told the Rzeczpospolita newspaper.

Even Kaczynski’s pledge to ax the chamber came with barbs for the Court of Justice of the European Union. “I do not recognize such judgements,” he said in reference to the EU court’s call to scrap the disciplinary chamber. “They definitely go beyond the treaties.”

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