: WSJ: Poland tries to allay Western concerns about court crisis before NATO summit

11:49 Jul. 7, 2016

WSJ: Poland tries to allay Western concerns about court crisis before NATO summit

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Polish President, Andrzej Dud,a shake hands after a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, May 30, 2016 (AP photo)

Ruling Law and Justice Party rushes legislation aimed at resolving standoff with country's top court

Poland's ruling party rushed legislation through parliament on Wednesday, in a bid to resolve a constitutional crisis ahead of a NATO summit in Warsaw this week and deflect criticism from Western partners.

A number of US and European officials, including US President Barack Obama, are expected in the Polish capital later this week to attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit. Washington and Brussels have both criticized the Polish government's moves to tighten control over the judiciary as exceeding its powers.

The conservative Law and Justice party that has governed Poland since November is working on new legislation to overhaul the country's constitutional court. The government says the new law is fair and aims to end a standoff with the court, but the opposition argues it makes only cosmetic changes and continues to constrain the court's independence.

The dispute has spilled into the streets of Warsaw in recent months, with series of pro and antigovernment marches.

Failure to settle the crisis at home could push Poland into a delicate spot on the international stage just as the former Soviet Union satellite is seeking greater security assurances from Western allies.

Rules governing the constitutional court, whose judgments on legislation are final, have changed repeatedly as part of a broader political fight between the current government and its centrist predecessor.

The government accused its predecessor of trying to pack the court in its favor ahead of last October's parliamentary elections, which Law and Justice won in a landslide. The new government scrapped the appointments announced by the previous government and presented its own judges in a move contested by the court and the opposition. As the standoff escalated, the Polish government stopped publishing the court's rulings, citing procedural matters. As a result, those decisions didn't take effect.

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