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Poland fails to ease EU fears on court independence: commission

AFP  |  Strasbourg (France) 

has failed to allay fears that it is undermining judicial independence, the said today, calling for a "formal hearing" of EU states to unprecedented penalties.

said that he will continue pressing Poland's right-wing government to reverse course on its court reforms during a visit to on Monday.

in December triggered so-called article seven proceedings against over "systemic threats" to the rule of law, which could eventually see Warsaw's EU voting rights suspended.

Legislative changes adopted in since April in a bid to solve the row "are not sufficient to eliminate the clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law," Timmermans told the

Poland's right-wing government began making changes to the judiciary after coming to power in late 2015. It says the reforms are needed to combat corruption and overhaul the judicial system still haunted by the communist era.

With the lower courts already under threat, "it is now the which is at risk of coming under political control," warned Timmermans, who leads the Polish dossier in the commission, the EU's arm.

Around a third of Poland's supreme court judges risk being fired or forced to retire next month under the reforms, he said. Timmermans added that "last week the Commission therefore asked the Council to organise a formal hearing of Poland" in line with article seven of the EU treaty.

The proceedings could much further down the line lead to the never-before-used "nuclear option", in which Poland's EU voting rights are suspended.

has already said it would veto such a step against its key ally but is hoping the proceedings will have significant symbolic power.

Three former Polish presidents, including anti-communist icon Lech Walesa, earlier on Wednesday urged the EU to defend the rule of law in their country, ahead of the decisions on the Supreme Court.

The row underlines growing east-west tensions within the European Union, with former Soviet bloc states like and refusing to toe the line on several thorny issues including judicial and as well as immigration.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, June 13 2018. 21:20 IST