European parliament rebukes Poland on top court

13th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

The European Parliament issued a sharp rebuke to Poland's conservative government on Wednesday, saying it was violating the country's constitution and undermining the rule of law.

The Law and Justice (PiS) government plunged Poland into political crisis in December when it pushed through legislation to overhaul its top constitutional court and modify its decision-making rules.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, launched in January an unprecedented probe to see if the changes violate EU democracy rules and merit punitive measures. The resolution approved overwhelmingly by MEPs on Wednesday urged the commission to take action.

"This parliament has spoken loudly and clearly: respect for European values is not a choice but an obligation," said Guy Verhofstadt, a senior MEP from the liberal ALDE group.

The legal move by the Warsaw government against its top court "poses a danger to democracy, human rights and the rule of law," the resolution said.

The resolution passed with 513 votes for, 142 against and 30 abstentions.

MEPs accuse PiS of neutralising one of the only institutions with the power to counterweight the government, which party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski dominates from behind the scenes.

"This is nothing more than vulgar international pressure on Poland," said PiS MEP Ryszard Czarnecki.

Since taking office in November 2015, the PiS government has pushed through several pieces of controversial legislation, including strengthening controls over public media and is now seeking to tighten already restrictive limits on abortions.

© 2016 AFP

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