Polish President heeds EU calls to veto new Polish laws

d8cb8a5155b018d09b1301In a move that surprised many observers, the President of Poland Andrzej Duda announced his intention on 24 July to veto the laws adopted by the Polish Parliament aimed at reforming the Polish court system. The President’s veto had been called for by EU leaders.

The laws being vetoed deal with appointments to the Polish Supreme Court and the National Judiciary Council and would have given greater control over the judiciary to the Parliament, currently dominated by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) of Jarosław Kaczyński. Before being elected president by universal suffrage, President Duda represented that party in the European Parliament; so his move is considered a split within PiS and a weakening of the party leader Mr Kaczyński.

Last week EU Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans had strongly attacked the Polish laws and threatened EU sanctions on Poland if they went ahead, urging the Polish President to exercise his veto. Several thousand Polish citizens had also mounted protests outside the official residence of President Duda, calling on him to veto the laws. Now that he has done so, hardliners in PiS accuse him of buckling under pressure from the EU.

The EU Commission however is being very cautious. Reacting to news of President Duda’s announced veto, the Commission spokesperson simply stated that they were monitoring the situation and would discuss it at the weekly Commission meeting on 26 July.