Poland sees 160 protests against legal changes
Activists say the legislation would end to the separation of powers and increase Polish isolation in the European Union and possibly threaten its EU membership.
Protests in the nation of 38 million occurred in Katowice, Krakow, Wroclaw, Olsztyn, Bialystok and Poznan. Broadcaster TVN24 reported 160 protests.
“Today is a difficult day. Once again the fate of free courts hangs in the balance,” judge and PiS critic Igor Tuleya told the Warsaw protest.
The parliamentary Bureau of Research, which analyses the legality of bills, warned that the proposed law violated judicial independence and the primacy of European law.
The lower house will begin debating the legislation today (Thursday). The bill is looking to grant the government the power to discipline judges who carry out rulings to comply with EU law, including questioning appointments to the judiciary.
Judges would be forced to declare associations with which they are affiliated and those organisations’ names could be made available online.
PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the changes were aimed at preventing “chaos”.
“No serious state can allow some judges to question the ability to make appointments or the sentences and decisions made by other judges,” Morawiecki told the media.
Poland has some of Europe’s strongest economic growth this year but one of the world’s worst-performing stock markets.
The country’s benchmark, the WIG20 Index, is set to end the year among the world’s weakest stock markets, with a loss of 6.4 per cent. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index’s 23 per cent increase during. Poland’s economy is set to slow to 3.4 per cent growth next year, the slowest increase in five years, although still dwarfing the rest of the European Union.
Polish banks have been hit particularly hard, with Bank Millennium down 38 per cent, Santander Polska falling 16 per cent and PKO Bank falling 11 per cent. The banks have been hurt by several legal battles with borrowers after foreign-currency mortgages increased in value. An EU verdict in October has opened the door for the potential cancellation of half of the US$31 billion in outstanding non-zloty loans, meaning the threat of litigation is set to prevent any rebound in the sector during 2020.
Far-right protests in Poland in November. Picture credit: YouTube