Posts Tagged ‘Hungary.’

Migrant crisis: Italy backs force to police Libya shore — Effort to stem the influx of migrants into Europe

July 29, 2017

BBC News

The Italian navy destroyer Luigi Durand De La Penne in the Mediterranean Sea on 1 October 2015
Libya says Italian plans for a force of ships, planes and sailors led by a frigate would undermine its sovereignty. AFP photo

Italy’s cabinet has backed sending a mission to Libya to try to stem the influx of migrants.

The mission would help Libya “reinforce their capacity to control their borders and national territory”, said Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

It would reportedly comprise ships, planes and at least 700 sailors.

Mr Gentiloni claimed it had been requested by Libya, but the UN-backed government there vigorously denied making any such request.

In an earlier statement, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj said his administration had agreed to receive only training and arms from Italy.

“Libya’s national sovereignty is a red line that nobody must cross,” he said.

Mr Sarraj, whose administration’s control of Libya is limited, held a face-to-face meeting with Mr Gentiloni in Italy on Wednesday.

Mr Sarraj did acknowledge asking Rome for border guards in southern Libya in that meeting.

More than 94,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy so far this year, according to the UN. But more than 2,370 people have died trying.

Migrants picked up in Libyan coastal waters – and not international waters – can be legally returned to Libya, but aid workers say that conditions in Libyan migrant reception camps are dire.

The Italian mission to Libyan coastal waters would reportedly be led by a frigate.

A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat during the pick-up of 147 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli, on 27 June 2017
European states have already been helping to beef up Libyan efforts to prevent migrants reaching international waters, where international law then prevents them being returned to Libya. AFP photo

The mission would contribute, Mr Gentiloni told the cabinet meeting, to Libya’s “path of stabilisation… and Italy feels it a duty to participate”.

The cabinet had “approved what the [Libyan] government requested, no more, no less,” he said. He later clarified that the initiative aimed to “support Libya sovereignty, it is not an initiative against Libyan sovereignty”.

He said full details of the plan would be presented to parliament on Tuesday.

Push-back plan

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris would establish migrant registration centres or “hotspots” in Libya – and in the shorter term in Niger and Chad – to vet asylum seekers prior to their attempt to cross into Europe.

And in a letter to Mr Gentiloni last week, the Visegrad group of four (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) pledged financial support for Italian efforts to reduce the flow of irregular migrants from Libya and elsewhere.

Those efforts, the letter outlined, included “EU activities at the southern border of Libya” and the creation of migrant-vetting “hotspots” outside EU territory.

In remarks on 23 June, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spelled out this view, telling journalists: “If we don’t want people from Libya to set out for Europe, we have to act accordingly – either on Libya’s northern or southern borders.

“Hungary announced that it supports the Italian-German initiative for us to set up check-points and introduce a monitoring system on Libya’s southern borders. Hungary is prepared to contribute to this with personnel or funding.”

Map showing Central Mediterranean migrant routes

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40750994

Hungary Dismisses Top EU Court Adviser’s Statement on Migrant Quota Challenge

July 26, 2017

BUDAPEST — Hungary’s government said on Wednesday that a statement by an adviser to the top European Union court dismissing a Hungarian and Slovak challenge to the bloc’s migrant quotas was a political statement which is short on legal arguments.

“The main elements of the statement are political, which are practically used to disguise the fact that there are no legal arguments in it,” Pal Volner, state secretary of the Justice Ministry was cited as saying by the state news agency MTI.

Earlier on Wednesday, the European Court of Justice’s Advocate General Yves Bot rejected the procedural arguments presented by Bratislava and Budapest that obligatory quotas were unlawful. A final ECJ ruling is expected after the summer break.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Polish President Andrzej Duda calls for calm as judicial reform crisis heightens amid EU castigation

July 24, 2017

The Polish president has spoken of the need for national “togetherness” as the crisis over judicial reform rages on. Caught between protests, EU castigation, and a hardline government, all eyes are on him.

Andrzej Duda

Polish President Andrzej Duda said he hopes his citizens can “rebuild a sense of community,” in comments to the commercial Onet.pl outlet on Sunday.

His call for calm came after the Senate edged closer on Saturday towards a showdown with the European Union by approving new measures that critics fear will put the Supreme Court under the control of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Duda agreed to discuss the bill with Poland’s top judge, Malgorzata Gersdorf, on Monday before making a decision and still has 21 days to decide whether to veto it or send to the Constitutional Court for review.

Read more: Lech Walesa tells protesters to fight judicial reform

“My role is to look for common elements so that we are together, regardless of our views,” he added, admitting that it was “a very difficult task.”

“I am not naive and don’t believe in Utopia. Not everyone will always agree,” he said.

A protest in front of the Supreme CourtProtests at the reform have continued over the weekend

A rock and a hard place

As a former member of the ruling PiS party, Duda has not shown much inclination to upset his political masters in the past.

Jaroslaw Kaczyski – PiS’ leader and architect of the multifronted assault on the judicial institutions that he labels relics of the communist era – is unlikey to budge, and the EU has shown itself unable to wield much more than threats over previous contraventions of democratic norms in Poland.

The new judicial reforms would effectively place Poland’s Supreme Court under political control, with MPs able to retire and appoint judges as they see fit. In its current form the bill calls for the firing of all Supreme Court judges, bar those already appointed by PiS Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro.

To date, judges have been selected by an independent committee which includes a handful of politicians.

Read more: ‘Someone has stolen Poland and its values’

Meanwhile, mass protests in reaction to the bill continued for a second day across Poland on Sunday.

An opinion poll for private television station TVN on Friday found that 55 percent said Duda – who went on vacation despite the crisis – should veto the judicial overhaul and 29 percent wanted him to sign it.

PiS has rarely backed down since it came to power in late 2015, although did so over controversial abortion legislation earlier this year when faced with mass protests.

External leverage

Voices from outside Poland, mainly the EU and US, are calling on the ex-law professor to rethink the legislation.

Germany has voiced its fears over the contested judicial reforms. Jens Gnisa, chairman of the German Association of Judges, told broadcaster RNZ that Poland was moving towards a “politically controlled judiciary, in which compliant judges are guided like puppets.”

In Brussels, the European Commission has threatened to trigger Article 7, a sanction law intended to deter “serious and persistent violations” of the EU treaty’s fundamental values. Should it pass, Poland would have its voting rights as an EU member state suspended.

EU sanctions would require unanimity from the bloc’s 28 member nations, and Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban  said on Saturday he would fight to defend Poland from what he called the EU’s “inquisitorial campaign.”

 http://www.dw.com/en/polish-president-andrzej-duda-calls-for-calm-as-judicial-reform-crisis-heightens/a-39808217
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Head of Polish Constitutional Court Sees No Threat in Judicial Reform — Poland’s president to deliver a statement

July 24, 2017

WARSAW — Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal President Julia Przylebska said that she sees no threat to the division of powers in an overhaul of the judicial system that has brought tens of thousands of people into the streets in protest.

Image result for Poland's Constitutional Tribunal President Julia Przylebska, photos

President Andrzej Duda presents the appointment as Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal President to Julia Przylebska, Wednesday, 21 December 2016. Credit KPRP

Senators of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party passed a bill that would remove all Supreme Court judges except those hand-picked by the justice minister. Critics say the laws will undermine judicial independence.

Now President Andrzej Duda is to decide whether to sign the bill, veto it – as the opposition and protesters demand – or send it to the Constitutional Tribunal, which PiS overhauled last year, drawing domestic opposition and criticism from the European Union.

“I see no threat to the division of powers in Poland,” Przylebska, who was appointed by Duda last year, told state TV last night, according to state news agency PAP.

Przylebska said three bills overhauling the judiciary system recently approved by parliament will improve Polish courts.

Duda is to deliver a statement at 0800 GMT. Then he will meet the president of the top court, as well the head of the National Council of the Judiciary.

The overhaul of the judiciary, coupled with a drive by PiS to expand its powers in other areas, has provoked a crisis in relations with the European Union and sparked one of the biggest street protests since Poland overthrew communism in 1989.

(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Anna Koper, editing by Larry King)

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Poland’s war on democracy was aided by Trump

July 24, 2017


The Washington Post

July 24, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump gives a public speech in front of the Warsaw Uprising Monument at Krasinski Square, in Warsaw, Poland July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

The right-wing government in Poland is on a collision course with the European Union.

Over the weekend, a bill overhauling the country’s judiciary passed both chambers of the parliament. If it gets adopted, the ruling Law and Justice Party will be able to fill Poland’s Supreme Court with its hand-picked allies. Critics warn it would be a profound step toward authoritarianism.

The measure has led to the biggest street protests since the populist conservative party came to power in 2015. Lech Walesa, the 73-year-old former president, joined demonstrators in the city of Gdansk, where he led landmark strikes in the 1980s that helped topple communism. He warned that the freedoms won by the anti-communist struggle are now under risk.

“Our generation managed, in the most improbable situation, to lead Poland to freedom,” he said to the crowd in the city’s Solidarity Square. “You cannot let anyone interrupt this victory, especially you young people … You must use all means to take back what we achieved for you.”

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, crowd and outdoor
Lech Walesa speaks near the Monument of Fallen Shipyard Workers in Gdansk, Poland, on July 22. AP photo

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Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council and a former Polish prime minister, described the legislation as “a negation of European values and standards” that would “move us back in time and space — backward and to the East.” The “East” was less a geographic signifier than a marker for a different, darker era of Polish politics, when Warsaw was subject to the whims of Moscow and isolated from Europe’s liberal democracies.

A statement from the U.S. State Department urged the government to reconsider the bill, which it declared would “undermine judicial independence and weaken the rule of law in Poland.” Yet the White House seems to have sent a different message.

After all, it was in Warsaw earlier this month that President Trump championed his vision of the West to a crowd of supporters bused in by the ruling party. Trump said nothing then about the importance of rule of law or the preservation of democratic institutions. Instead, he delivered a paean to blood-and-soil nationalism, anchored in antipathy to Islam and airy appeals to Christian values and the sacrifices of “patriots.”

Michal Kobosko, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Warsaw Global Forum, told The Post that Trump’s rhetoric clearly “encouraged to move forward with their offensive against the courts.”

“In giving such a speech in such a place, Trump has confirmed Poland’s nationalist government in its isolationist and anti-democratic course,” wrote Post columnist Anne Applebaum.

That course has been charted by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice Party’s co-founder and boss and the de facto leader of Poland. Both the country’s prime minister and president are seen as loyal accomplices to Kaczynski’s agenda. Protesters were staking their hopes on the latter — President Andrzej Duda — to veto the widely unpopular legislation, but he is expected to sign it into law after a few amendments.

Its implications are staggering. “Here’s the crowning blow in ending judiciary independence in Poland,” wrote Monika Nalepa of the University of Chicago. “Since the Minister of Justice already simultaneously holds the position of Prosecutor General, the ruling majority may now choose both the prosecutor AND the judge in every single court case.”

Image may contain: one or more people, crowd, sky and outdoor

People protest against supreme court legislation in Wroclaw, Poland, July 20, 2017. Agencja Gazeta/Mieczyslaw Michalak/via REUTERS

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For Kaczynski and his allies, though, the takeover is part of their project to “renationalize” Poland. Kaczynski sees the judiciary as infested with crypto-communists and liberals “subordinated to foreign forces.” He peddles various conspiracy theories, including his belief that Tusk and his liberal colleagues hatched a plot that led to a 2010 plane crash in which Kaczynski’s twin brother died.

When the incident came up during a parliamentary debate about the judicial reforms last week, Kaczynski exploded. “Don’t wipe your treacherous mugs with the name of my late brother,” he said to his liberal adversaries. “You destroyed him, you murdered him!” This sort of polarizing rhetoric has become the stock-in-trade of politicians in nearby Hungary or Turkey, where illiberal conservatives have also set about subverting and transforming democracies in their image.

Kaczynski’s populist platform — built on Catholic piety, anti-cosmopolitan nationalism and generous cash handouts — won his party the support of close to 40 percent of Polish voters, and he may seek to consolidate that position through elections later this year. The liberal opposition, meanwhile, is floundering, as Der Spiegel observed.

“The bedrock of [the liberal] political platform has always been the E.U.,” noted the German magazine. “Its vision is basically that so long as Poland is a reliable European partner, aid from Brussels will ensure prosperity for all. The trouble is that few people believe in this vision in the remote east of the country, in villages and small towns.”

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The protests against the new judicial reforms may present a galvanizing moment for the opposition. Last year, the government was forced to back down from an abortion ban after mass protests hit the streets.

“We will show that we refuse to live without freedom,” said Radomir Szumelda, a 45-year-old liberal activist, to my colleague Isaac Stanley-Becker. “Young people who didn’t live under communism may not know what that was like, but they are also joining us, and together we are saying that we can’t go back.”

But they may not get much assistance from the European Union. Despite the scolding statements coming from various corners, real punitive measures can only be slapped on Warsaw by a unanimous vote within the bloc. Hungary’s illiberal prime minister, Viktor Orban, has already made clear that he would veto such censure.

And, looking further west, it’s unlikely the American president — another politician at war with liberalism and convinced of judicial plots against his rule — will lift a finger to prevent Warsaw’s slide away from Europe.

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Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor and correspondent at Time magazine, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/07/24/polands-war-on-democracy-was-aided-by-trump/?utm_term=.aecd81e9e51d

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Italy Refuses to Be Lectured By European Neighbors Over Migrants

July 22, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean since the start of the year

ROME (AFP) – Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has warned Rome will not accept either “lessons” or “threats” from neighbours on border security amid tension over Europe’s migrant crisis.”We shall not accept lessons and still less threats such as those we have heard from our neighbours in recent days,” said Gentiloni.

“We are doing our duty and expect the whole of Europe to do the same alongside Italy,” Gentiloni said late Friday in a clear reference to demands by some neighbours that Italy close its borders.

Image result for Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, photos

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni

Italy summoned Austria’s ambassador on Tuesday after Vienna threatened to send troops to the border, open as part of Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone, to stop migrants entering after the number crossing the Mediterranean topped 100,000 this year.

Some 2,360 drowned in the attempt, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration.

Other EU states, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, have also expressed alarm at the continued arrivals.

Italy has taken in some 85 percent of this year’s arrivals — mostly sub-Saharan Africans crossing from conflict-ravaged Libya — and has pleaded for help from other European Union nations.

But Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have flatly refused to take part in a relocation scheme.

Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz on Thursday urged Italy to stop migrants from reaching the mainland by halting ferry services from the islands where they first land, saying “rescue missions in the Mediterranean cannot be seen as a ticket to central Europe.”

Hungary to support Poland amid European ‘inquisition’ — “We will show solidarity with the Poles” — Orban says

July 22, 2017

Reuters

Image result for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, photos

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. AFP photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday that Budapest would fight to defend Poland as the European Union threatens Warsaw with sanctions over its plans to extend government control over its courts.

Poland is moving ahead with an overhaul of its supreme court despite street protests and the threat of EU sanctions.

“The inquisition offensive against Poland can never succeed because Hungary will use all legal options in the European Union to show solidarity with the Poles,” Orban said in a televised speech in Baile Tusnad, Romania.

Like Polish leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Orban has locked horns with Brussels for years over a perceived disrespect for democratic freedoms and has increasingly posed as a freedom fighter against EU overreach.

New Protests Planned in Poland Over Court Law — Lech Walesa To Speak Out Against New Legislation on the Supreme Court

July 22, 2017

WARSAW, Poland — The Latest on Poland’s move to give politicians influence over Supreme Court (all times local):

12:55 p.m.

A pro-democracy movement in Poland says that former president and democracy icon Lech Walesa will join a protest they are holding against new legislation that gives politicians significant control of the nation’s top court.

Image result for Lech Walesa, photos

Lech Walesa

Despite mass peaceful protests, the legislation on the Supreme Court was approved by the Senate on Saturday and only requires the approval of President Andrzej Duda to become law. Opponents say it would destroy judicial independence and violate the rule of law.

A new round of street protests is planned by government opponents across Poland later in the day to urge Duda not to sign it.

One of the organizing groups, the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, says Walesa will join the protest in his hometown of Gdansk, on the Baltic coast.

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12:10 p.m.

The spokesman for Poland’s president says the leader sees flaws in contentious legislation adopted by the Senate that gives politicians significant influence over the nation’s top court.

Andrzej Duda’s spokesman, Andrzej Lapinski, stopped short of saying whether the president would reject the bill or seek the opinion of the constitutional court. Duda has 21 days to sign it into law.

The legislation, approved early Saturday, has drawn condemnation from European Union leaders and has led to major protests across Poland.

Proposed by the populist ruling party, it gives the justice minister and the president the power to appoint and assess Supreme Court judges. Critics say that will kill off judicial independence.

Lapinski said that Duda sees inconsistency between two articles regarding the appointment of the court’s head.

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Poland’s Senate Approves Judicial Overhaul — Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban Takes Sides With Poland Against EU

July 22, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, crowd, sky and outdoor

People protest against supreme court legislation in Wroclaw, Poland, July 20, 2017. Agencja Gazeta/Mieczyslaw Michalak/via REUTERS

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Senate approved a contentious law on Saturday that gives politicians substantial influence over the Supreme Court, in defiance of European Union criticism.

The bill proposed by the populist ruling party only needs the signature of President Andrzej Duda to become binding. Duda has so far followed the ruling party line.

The vote was 55-23 with two abstentions.

It was met with boos from protesters gathered in front of the Senate building.

EU leaders say the bill would kill judicial independence and threaten the rule of law in the EU’s largest member in Central and Eastern Europe. The U.S. Department of State voiced concern on Friday.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, contends the judiciary still works along a communist-era model and harbors many judges from that time. Communist rule ended in 1989. He says the justice system needs “radical changes” to become efficient and reliable.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo says the legislation is an internal matter and the government will not bow to any foreign pressure.

The legislation calls for firing current Supreme Court judges, except those chosen by the justice minister and approved by the president. It gives the president the power to issue regulations for the court’s work. It also introduces a disciplinary chamber that, on a motion from the justice minister, would handle suspected breaches of regulations or ethics.

In anticipation of the vote, crowds gathered Friday night for yet another protest in front of the Supreme Court building in Warsaw and in some other cities. About 200 protesters also gathered in front of Duda’s vacation home in Jurata, on the Baltic coast, to demand that he doesn’t sign the bill.

The president has 21 days to sign it, and is not expected to do it before his meeting Monday with the head of the court, Malgorzata Gersdorf.

Two other bills on a key judicial body and on regular courts also await Duda’s signature.

Duda won election as a Law and Justice member but has left the party in accord with Poland’s tradition of a nonpartisan presidency. He is expected to sign the legislation.

Image result for Poland's lower house of parliament, photos

Poland’s lower house of parliament (Sejm). Photo: PAP/Jacek Turczyk

The U.S. Department of State on Friday urged all sides to “ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland’s constitution or international legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers,” and urged dialogue.

Duda has so far not accepted an invitation for talks on the issue from European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

Speaking to Poland’s TVN24, Tusk repeated his readiness for talks and said he was a “little disappointed” there has been no meeting.

“Poland’s president should be concerned about a situation that is, let’s say, serious,” Tusk said.

Tusk said the steps the Polish government is taking toward the judiciary would allow it to limit social freedoms if it wants. He said they are in conflict with the EU’s principles and are damaging to Poland’s international standing.

But he conceded that, during his seven years as Poland’s prime minister, he did encounter some resistance against judicial reform.

“The price for judicial independence, which is a value, was a lack of compulsory reform,” Tusk said.

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has warned that Poland could face a proceeding under Article 7 of the EU treaty, which makes possible sanctions in case of a “serious and persistent” breach of the EU’s basic values. In theory, Poland could be deprived of its vote in the EU’s council of governments, but such a move would have to be unanimous.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said his government would never support sanctions against Poland.

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‘Poland will be marginalised in Europe’ — European Council President Donald Tusk, former Polish centrist prime minister says

July 21, 2017

TENS of thousands of Poles protested against a new law that allows parliament to appoint Supreme Court judges, defying a European Union warning that the move undermines democracy and the rule of law.

PUBLISHED: 08:11, Fri, Jul 21, 2017 | UPDATED: 09:01, Fri, Jul 21, 2017

Thousands protest against judiciary reform in Poland

 Image may contain: one or more people, crowd, sky and outdoor
 People protest against supreme court legislation in Wroclaw, Poland, July 20, 2017. Agencja Gazeta/Mieczyslaw Michalak/via REUTERS
The bill, sponsored by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), was passed by parliament’s lower house earlier in the day after tumultuous debate. It saw one of the biggest protests since the PiS came to power in late 2015.

European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish centrist prime minister and arch-adversary of PiS, said he had asked President Andrzej Duda for an urgent meeting about the “political crisis” in the country.

Mr Tusk said in a statement that PiS moves on courts were backward, went “against European standards and values“, harmed Poland’s reputation and risked marginalising the country.

He said: “It falls to us, together, to avert bleak outcomes which could ultimately lead to the marginalization of Poland in Europe… The situation, including at international level, is really serious. And that is why I am asking for serious measures and serious partners. Please let us try, Mr. President.”

Donald TuskGETTY

EU’s Donald Tusk has attacked Poland’s decision

The vote came a day after the EU gave its largest formerly communist member state a week to shelve judicial reforms that Brussels says would put courts under direct government control.

If Warsaw’s nationalist-minded PiS does not back down, the government could face fines and even a suspension of voting rights, although other eurosceptics in the EU, notably Hungary, will likely veto strict punishment.

In the best-case scenario, Poland will see its clout in Brussels wane further, damaged by mounting frustration among its EU peers arising from bitter disputes over issues such as migrant quotas and nature conservation.

Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the Polish People’s Party (PSL), told a crowd in Warsaw: “We will … not allow them to trample European values. We will not allow ourselves to be pushed out of the European Union.”

Poles have been protested the government's billGETTY

Poles have been protested the government’s bill

A crowd in front of the Presidential Palace, carrying Polish and EU flags responded with chants, “Free Poland, European!” “Free Poland, European!”

Sources close to the Presidential Palace told Reuters that President Duda was on vacation on the Baltic seacoast.

Warsaw City Hall estimated the crowd at more than 50,000, while police put it at 14,000. Tens of thousands demonstrated in other Polish cities.

Piotr, 48, who came to the protests in Warsaw with his five-year-old son, said: “I wanted to be here on this historic day when our freedoms for which we fought for more than 25 years are being taken away.”

The government says the changes are needed to make courts accountable and to ensure state institutions serve all Poles, not just the “elites” it says are the support base for the centrist opposition.

PiS has offered no concessions, instead presenting the criticism as unacceptable foreign meddling in the domestic affairs of the country, which overthrew communism in 1989 and joined the EU in 2004.

Protesters raise candles during a protest in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw on Tuesday, as they urge the Polish president to reject a bill giving the ruling party more control over the judiciary system. President Andrzej Duda made a surprise compromise bid over controversial court reforms, as protesters took to the streets.  Adam Chelstowski/AFP/Getty Images

“We will not give into pressure,” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said on Thursday evening in a special state television address defending the bill. “We will not be intimidated by Polish and foreign defenders of the interests of the elite.”The bill will go to parliament’s upper house today, where PiS has absolute majority. Duda, a PiS ally, will have to sign it before it can become law.

Critics at home and abroad say the legislation is part of a drift towards authoritarianism by the government, which espouses nationalist rhetoric coupled with left-leaning economic policy.

Since being elected in 2015, PiS has tightened government control over courts and prosecutors, as well as state media, and introduced restrictions on public gatherings and the activity of non-governmental organisations.

Last week, parliament passed another bill that ends the terms of current members of the National Council of the Judiciary, one of the main judicial bodies, and gives parliament powers to choose 15 of its 25 members.

Political opponents, rights groups and the EU say the changes undermine the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, a fundamental democratic principle.

While PiS remains broadly popular among many Poles, particularly poorer and older voters from the countryside, there have been widespread protests against the plans.

A senior aide to President Duda, Krzysztof Szczerski, said Tusk should instead focus on explaining Poland’s stance in Brussels.

“The president is surprised that there has been such increased engagement in this matter by European institutions because everything is in accordance with the Polish legal order.”

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, another nationalist critic of Brussels, wrote a letter to his Polish counterpart to express Budapest’s support.

“We stand by Poland, and we call on the European Commission not to overstep its authority,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.

The bill passed on Thursday calls for replacing all Supreme Court judges except those elected by a judicial panel that is to be chosen by the parliament. The Supreme Court’s tasks include validating elections.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/831281/Poland-latest-crisis-Tusk-European-Union-riots