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Polish government gets more power over the courts, defying EU

Poland’s lower house of parliament approved changes to the country’s Supreme Court on Friday, a key part of a planned judiciary overhaul criticised by the European Union as contrary to democratic standards.

If confirmed by President Andrzej Duda, the legislation would empower parliament to decide the composition of the top court.

Later in the day, lawmakers are expected to back further amendments on how a judiciary oversight council is selected.

A panel of constitutional law experts of the human rights body Council of Europe said on Friday the proposed reforms imperil all parts of the country’s judiciary and “will lead to a far-reaching politicisation of this body.”

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party argues the changes are needed to repair a corrupt system and make courts more efficient. Its critics say it is part of a wider shift towards authoritarianism by the deeply conservative government.

“We are moving forward with reforms of the justice system, and the Supreme Court reform is an element of this process,” said Pawel Mucha, an adviser to Duda.

The legislation still needs Senate approval and Duda’s backing.

The vote came a day after the PiS sacked Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and replaced her with Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, a loyalist of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the party leader and Poland’s paramount politician.

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