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February 20, 2018

Polish PM says wants to change EU's mind in rule of law row

Polish PM says wants to change EU's mind in rule of law row
'"I believe the dialogue with European Commission will slowly but steadily lead to mutual understanding and de-escalation of this," Mateusz Morawiecki said on resolving the dispute on the country's courts' - By: AFP/File Attila KISBENEDEK

Poland's new right-wing prime minister said on Wednesday that he hoped to change the EU's mind about justice reforms that Brussels says violate the rule of law, but without making concessions.

Last month the EU launched unprecedented disciplinary proceedings over Warsaw's judicial reforms, which Brussels insists threaten democracy by putting the courts under government control.

"I believe the dialogue with European Commission will slowly but steadily lead to mutual understanding and de-escalation of this," Mateusz Morawiecki told foreign correspondents a day after he held talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels focused on resolving the dispute.

Morawiecki added: "I don't believe in this... because we are are going to make concessions, but... I want the European Commission to be assured, to be convinced that our judiciary system is independent, is more objective, is more transparent" thanks to the reforms.

Warsaw insists the overhaul was necessary to root out the last vestiges of communism from the justice system.

Brussels contends that 13 laws adopted by Poland in the space of two years have created a situation where the government "can systematically politically interfere with the composition, powers, the administration and the functioning" of judicial authorities.

Never before used against an EU member state, the proceedings can eventually lead to the "nuclear option" of the suspension of a country's voting rights within the bloc.

This, however, is unlikely to happen as ally Hungary has vowed to veto the measure.

The EU gave Warsaw three months to remedy the situation, saying it could withdraw the measures if it did.

Just hours ahead of heading to Brussels on Tuesday to mend ties, Morawiecki sacked his controversial defence and foreign ministers in a major cabinet reshuffle seen by analysts as a clear signal that Warsaw wants to change the tone of its discussion with the EU.

He and Junker held "a detailed discussion of questions related to the Rule of Law", according to a statement released by the European Commission following the meeting.

It described the talks as "constructive" and said they also touched on a variety of issues including "the future of the European Union, the Polish position within the European Union" and economic, energy and migration policy.

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