Polish Senate approves controversial Supreme Court reform bill

Polish Senate approves controversial Supreme Court reform bill
After more than 15 hours of debate, the upper house of the Polish parliament approved its judicial reform bill which Brussels has warned might cost Warsaw certain rights in the European Council.

Shortly before 2am Saturday morning, the Senate adopted the Judiciary Reform Bill, spearheaded by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). No amendments were made to the proposed legislation.

Fifty-five senators voted for the new measures while 23 voted against. Two senators abstained.

To become law, the bill must be signed by President Andrzej Duda.

The amendments, if approved, will empower parliament and the justice minister to appoint judges to the Supreme Court. Critics argue that such an arrangement would undermine the separation of powers and place the courts under direct government control.

"We believe that Poland is slowly but systematically turning into a penal institution," opposition senator Jan Rulewski said, dressed in a symbolic prison uniform during the debate, according to Reuters.

Less than a third of Poles support the reforms. A poll conducted by local stations TVN and TVN24 showed Friday that more than a half of the respondents reportedly urged the president to veto the proposals to overhaul the judiciary.

The European Commission has threatened to sanction Warsaw should the bill become law.

“If adopted, [the laws] would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary,” First Vice-President Frans Timmermans stated following the European Commission meeting earlier this week.

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Warsaw, however, maintains the changes are necessary to ensure state institutions do not serve the "elites." The government further believes that amendments to the judiciary will make the courts more accountable.