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Controversial judicial reform still 'needed,' Polish prime minister says after EU battle

Key Points
  • Poland continues to have a strained relationship with Brussels after several years of legal disputes over changes to Poland's judiciary, and fears over increasing authoritarianism in the Eastern European nation.
  • Controversial judicial reform 'is needed,' however, the Polish prime minister says.
From August 1, 2019, Polish citizens under the age of 26 who earn less than 85,528 zloty ($22,207) a year will no longer have to pay income tax.
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Poland continues to have a strained relationship with Brussels after several years of legal disputes over changes to the country's judiciary, and fears over increasing authoritarianism in the Eastern European nation.

The dispute came to a head last October when the European Commission referred Poland to the EU's Court of Justice in order to, it said, "protect judges from political control" that had been introduced by Poland's conservative ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS).

Brussels objected to the fact that judges in Poland could be subjected to investigations and sanctions based on their rulings and that their judicial independence could be affected. In November, the court ruled that the changes were against EU law and could undermine the independence of courts and discriminated between genders.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told CNBC Wednesday that he hoped a solution would be found "very quickly" and seemed unrepentant, saying there was public support for the reforms and that changes were needed.

"After four years of discussions with the European Commission (public support) is still at 80%," he said, speaking to CNBC's Geoff Cutmore at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and brushing off questions over protests by members of the judiciary against the changes.

VIDEO5:2505:25
Polish public supports judicial reform, prime minister says

Asked whether Poland could be at risk of losing EU funding because of its dispute with the EU over perceived infringements on the legal system, Morawiecki was confident that it would not. "I really don't think so, I think more and more leaders understand that there is a need to reform the judiciary system in Poland."

"Yes, judges don't want to select judges, judges want to judge if their sentences are correct and if there should be a disciplinary action started. So we believe simply that there should be some objective evaluation of performance of the judiciary, as it is in other jurisdictions, as this is why the reform is so needed," he said.

Earlier in January, Morawiecki told CNBC that the EU treated Poland differently from other EU nations, arguing that the EU was discriminatory.

"One country has a budget deficit of 2.4 percent and another country has a deficit exceeding 3 percent, which is the Maastricht Treaty criteria and they are treated differently because of some other aspects," he said, in reference to a recent dispute between Italy and the EU.