Poland’s top politician hints at easing judicial changes

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s ruling party leader hinted Monday that the government may ease off the controversial changes to the judicial system that have become a sticking point with EU officials in Brussels, who say they violate the rule of law and are withholding coronavirus recovery funds from Warsaw.

Poland’s most powerful politician, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, told Polish Radio that a deep reform of the courts that his right-wing government has launched is not possible now.

He blamed that on the EU’s approach and on decisions taken by previous Polish governments. But his words seemed to hint that he will no longer be pushing for the full implementation of his plan.

Kaczynski’s comments come as Poland and the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, are continuing talks this week on the milestones that Poland needs to meet, including in the justice area. The payment of billions of euros of EU pandemic recovery grants and loans to Poland can be released only after Brussels confirms that Warsaw has reversed the divisive changes.

Poland’s state budget deficit is expected to rise significantly this year, due to high spending on social benefits and defense in reaction to the war in neighbouring Ukraine. The EU funds could help the situation.

Kaczynski’s right-wing Law and Justice party won power in 2015. It began overhauling the judiciary by placing loyalists in key jobs and firing judges and prosecutors critical of its moves. Poland’s opposition and the EU say those steps have put judges under political control, in violation of democratic norms.

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