Poland abolishes controversial legal body condemned by EU | Poland

Polish lawmakers have approved the scrapping of a controversial disciplinary body in the country’s highest court which the right-wing government has used to punish outspoken judges and which has drew condemnation from the EU.

Poland’s government expects the abolition of the Supreme Court’s disciplinary chamber to end its feud with the EU, paving the way for a deal that will see Brussels disburse billions of euros in stimulus funds frozen for Poland.

Thursday’s vote in the lower house was 231 to 208, with 13 abstentions. The ruling coalition was for the move while the opposition was against, saying the changes are largely cosmetic.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told parliament ahead of the vote that European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen is expected to sign the deal in Warsaw on June 2.

Warsaw’s relations with Brussels have been strained under the current government, largely due to the control it has taken over the judicial system, placing loyalists at the top of the bodies and punishing judges who protested against these measures. .

But ties warmed as Poland took an active role in supporting Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion. Poland has taken in 3.6 million Ukrainian refugees and the government has lobbied for EU funds to accommodate and integrate the refugees.

Last year, the European Court of Justice found the Disciplinary Chamber breached EU rule of law principles, urged Poland to abolish it and fined 1 million euros (£850,000) a day to Poland as long as the body continues.

Critics say the change is superficial and misleading, as the controversial body will be replaced by a chamber of professional responsibility at the Supreme Court whose members will be chosen by the president, Andrzej Duda.

The new judicial regulations still have to be approved by the senate, where the opposition has a narrow edge, and by Duda, who is the lead author.

It was unclear if those approvals would be granted before June 2.

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