Foreign Minister Brende concerned about judicial reforms in Poland

This afternoon Poland's lower house of parliament passed a bill on the Supreme Court that has triggered strong reactions both at home and abroad. The proposed changes would give politicians considerable influence in appointing judges, thereby weakening the rule of law in Poland.

'I am disappointed that Poland's lower house of parliament today approved judicial reforms affecting the Supreme Court. In the past few days, the parliament has deliberated extensive changes in the justice sector. If these amendments are implemented, they will both individually and jointly undermine the independence of the courts in violation of the basic principles of the rule of law,' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

Both the European Commission and the Council of Europe have expressed strong concern about the judicial reforms that are now being deliberated by the parliament in Poland. They are open to dialogue and cooperation in order to deal with the situation. The bill on the Supreme Court is to be voted on by the upper house before it is passed on to the President for signing. The European Commission has asked the Polish authorities to suspend further consideration of these bills. It has also warned of possible sanctions against Poland because of what it regards as a systematic threat to the rule of law in Poland if these changes are implemented.

'I appeal to the Polish authorities to enter into dialogue with the European Commission and the Council of Europe in order to find solutions that ensure the independence of the judiciary in Poland,' Mr Brende said.

This bill is the most recent in a number of reforms in the justice sector that have sparked widespread demonstrations in several Polish cities. Last week both houses of parliament approved amendments affecting the National Council of the Judiciary, which nominates judges and reviews ethical complaints. Last year, the European Commission for the first time adopted a 'Rule of Law Recommendation' regarding the situation in Poland, and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe entered into dialogue with the Polish authorities on amendments affecting the Constitutional Tribunal. The combined result of the sweeping reforms in the Polish justice sector is to undermine the independence of the judiciary.