Polish president Andrzej Duda has reacted angrily to criticism by international institutions of Poland’s latest judicial reforms, telling an audience that no one speaking foreign languages will instruct Poland on how to run its own affairs.
“I will say in the strongest terms, they will not impose on us in foreign languages the system that we are to have in Poland and how Polish affairs are to be conducted,” said Duda during a speech in Zwoleń, one of the many smaller towns he is visiting in the build up to this year’s presidential elections.
“Yes, this is the European Union, but above all this is Poland,” continued Duda. “Despite the attacks on the current authorities, in Poland and from abroad, the foreign interventions…this repair of the justice system will be carried out.”
“Black sheep among judges must be eliminated,” said Duda. Yet the “judicial elites” appear more interested in “calling for vengeance” than proposing any “constructive programme of reform of the justice system”, the president declared.
— PiS Lubuskie (@PiS_Lubuski) January 17, 2020
Duda’s speech came in response to a number of developments over the last two days. A proposed new disciplinary regime for judges – which could lead to them being fired for not recognising the government’s judicial reforms – has been criticised by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, by the European Commission and Parliament, and by the OSCE.
In a further development today, the Senate – the upper house of parliament, which is controlled by the opposition – voted to reject the bill, which opponents have dubbed the “muzzle law” and one judge described as akin to “the imposition of martial law in the judiciary”.
The legislation now passes back to the more powerful Sejm – the lower house, where the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party have a majority – which will be able to pass the bill regardless of the Senate’s concerns.
Reports in Polish media yesterday suggested that, should the Sejm pass the legislation in its current form, President Duda would be willing to ignore international warnings and sign it into law. Today’s speech appears to confirm this.
This is not the first time that the president has called on the European Union not to intervene in Polish domestic affairs. In 2018 he aroused controversy by declaring, during a speech at a similar meeting in the small town of Leżajsk, that the EU is an “imaginary community which is of little relevance to Poles”.
“When our affairs are resolved we’ll deal with European affairs,” said Duda. “But for now leave us in peace and let us fix Poland…which Europe left to the Russians in 1945.”
President Duda attacks the EU as an 'imaginary community which is of little relevance to Poles. When our affairs are resolved we'll deal with European affairs. But for now leave us in peace and let us fix Poland…which Europe left to the Russians in 1945' https://t.co/lss7eNmB3z
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 11, 2018
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.