Poland’s ruling conservatives said on Saturday they would disregard a ruling by the country’s top court that outlawed some of their legal reforms, putting them on a collision course with the European Union that has also criticised the changes.
Poland’s eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party has faced growing pressure from the EU, the United States and other bodies since it swept to power in the bloc’s largest eastern member in October and increased controls on media and other institutions.
The constitutional court said on Wednesday that the government’s decision to increase the number of its judges needed to make rulings was illegal, deepening a crisis that has stirred concerns about democracy and the rule of law.
Critics say the reforms, which also change the order in which cases are heard at the top court, have made it difficult for judges to review, let alone challenge, the government’s legislation.
The government has refused to publish the court’s ruling in an official journal, effectively putting it in legal limbo, saying the judges had not followed the very legislation they were ruling on when they made their decision.
On Friday, the Venice Commission, the rights body the Council of Europe’s advisory panel, said that Poland’s overhaul of the court would endanger “not only the rule of law but also the functioning of the democratic system.”
The panel also said that the government must recognise the top court’s verdict on the reforms.
The government would ask parliament to review the Venice Commission’s recommendation, spokesman Rafal Bochenek told a news conference on Saturday, but it will not recognise the top court’s verdict.
“We uphold the position that Poland’s government cannot publish the statement of some of the constitutional court judges, which is not based on law,” Bochenek said.
While the opinion of the rights body is non-binding, it will carry weight at the EU Commission, which has begun a process to monitor the rule of law in Poland that could end up in Warsaw being suspended from voting in the European Union.
The Commission said it would review the rights body’s opinion in April.