Poland to change process for judges’ nominations with eye on EU funds

WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish Justice Minister Adam Bodnar outlined on Friday a bill that aims to correct the way judges are appointed as a first step in rolling back the previous nationalist government’s judicial reforms with a view to unfreezing EU funds.

The former Law and Justice (PiS) party government had for years been stuck in a row with Brussels over its court reforms and the rule of law, resulting in billions of European Union’s funds for Poland being frozen.

But pro-EU parties won a majority in an Oct. 15 election, ending eight years of PiS rule, and a new government led by former European Council president Donald Tusk has vowed to regain access to the money.

One of the key issues is the procedure for appointing judges, which critics say was politicised under PiS. The European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice of the EU have also pointed to irregularities in the procedure.

Bodnar proposes that members of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS) should be appointed by other judges, with the judges nominated by the previous Council being excluded from the process.

“In our opinion, such a bill is consistent with the constitution and international treaties applicable to Poland … and it will meet standards resulting from ECHR and CJEU verdicts,” said Deputy Justice Minister Dariusz Mazur.

(Reporting by Marek Strzelecki and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Alex Richardson)