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Poland braced for EU Commission opinion amid row

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Poland braced for EU Commission opinion amid row

The European Commission is on Monday expected to issue an opinion critical of the state of democracy and the rule of law in Poland under the country’s Law and Justice (PiS) government.

The commission, the executive body of the European Union, last week gave Poland until Monday to find a solution to an ongoing row and a deadlock over the country’s Constitutional Tribunal. But since then tensions have escalated, with the PiS-dominated parliament voting through a resolution on Friday calling on the government to "defy all actions infringing" Poland’s sovereignty and pointing a blaming finger at Brussels. A critical opinion by the European Commission would be a further step in a long process that could lead to the EU imposing penalties on Warsaw, theoretically including the suspension of its voting rights in the EU Council.

But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said his country would veto any such move, which would have to be backed unanimously by EU member states. In January, the European Commission said it was starting a "rule-of-law" probe into whether controversial laws pushed through by Law and Justice violate EU standards Political deadlock Poland is locked in a political stalemate after the conservative Law and Justice party, which came to power in October, introduced sweeping reforms to the Constitutional Tribunal and other institutions. The moves have drawn criticism at home and abroad.

The tribunal has rejected PiS-backed changes to the way it functions. PiS, in turn, has refused to recognise that ruling by the tribunal, claiming it is invalid. Critics say the PiS-backed changes were designed to paralyse the tribunal, which decides whether laws passed by parliament are in keeping with the Polish constitution. PiS has argued it is unfair that a tribunal with a majority of judges appointed under the previous parliament should be able to scupper flagship policies for which Law and Justice secured a mandate in democratic elections.

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