WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Ex-Polish President Lech Walesa and several other former leaders appealed Wednesday to the European Union to help defend the rule of law in their country under a populist government that is overhauling the judiciary.
In a statement published in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza, the former leaders said they fear that a new law regulating the Supreme Court that takes effect on July 3 will destroy the democratic system of checks and balances in Poland.
Their open letter to the European Commission says “there will be no democratic Poland without a state of law.”
The signatories include former presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Bronislaw Komorowski as well as former prime ministers, foreign ministers and leading Solidarity activists.
Walesa was the leader of the anti-communist Solidarity movement 1980s and the first democratic-era president.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, who is expected to travel to Warsaw Monday for talks with Poland’s right-wing government, said Wednesday serious concerns remained about Poland’s rule of law. He added that concessions made by the Polish government on the issue are not satisfactory.
Timmermans told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France that Poland’s new laws on the courts do not meet European standards.
“The rule of law cannot exist if you don’t have an independent judiciary,” he said.
Timmermans has been seeking to persuade Warsaw to reverse course on the overhaul of the judicial system, which gives the ruling Law and Justice party greater power over the appointment of judges.
He said that under the law, 37 out of Supreme Court’s 72 judges will face the risk of being forced to retire.
That would constitute an “irreversible violation of rule of law,” Timmermans said.
The government argues the changes are needed to fix a slow and inefficient court system.
Deputy speaker of the parliament Zdzislaw Krasnodebski, who represents the Law and Justice party, defended the judicial overhaul and accused the commission of showing no good will. He said his government would not make any more concessions.
The judicial overhaul sparked a wave of anti-government street protests in Poland last year.
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