No Quick Fix for Polish Constitutional Crisis as Talks Begin

  • Ruling party leader Kaczynski says dialogue has started
  • Opposition parties see no quick way out of deadlock over court

The head of Poland’s ruling party met opposition groups to seek an end to the deadlock over changes to the Constitutional Court that have strained relations with the country’s Western allies and tarnished its democratic reputation.

While Law & Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said political dialogue had begun, both sides still remained far apart. Grzegorz Schetyna, who heads the opposition-leading Civic Platform, said he saw no chance for a compromise on terms presented by Kaczynski. His party will present its own proposal. At the same time, Ryszard Petru from the opposition Nowoczesna party, said finding common ground will take time.

The crisis, which has drawn condemnation from European Union and U.S. officials, erupted after Law & Justice annulled the previous government’s appointments to the top court, picked its own judges and revamped the tribunal to make it more difficult to strike down laws. The government refused to publish a March 9 ruling in which the court said the overhaul was unconstitutional, triggering street protests.

“There are differences in opinions, but it’s not a war,” Kaczynski told reporters in Warsaw after the meeting with opposition. He called the talks “good news.”

Foreign ‘Exploitation’

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo called on her political opponents to stop their criticism and let a group of experts find a way out of the impasse.

After taking power last year, her government fell out with the EU over the court overhaul, a shake-up of public media, and other policies, prompting the 28-nation bloc to start its first-ever probe into a member state’s democracy. The Venice Commission, an international rule-of-law watchdog, condemned the changes to the tribunal this month, and a protest group is demonstrating around the clock near Szydlo’s office in Warsaw, calling on her to publish the court’s verdict.

“Today we want the opposition to stop winding up the conflict,” Szydlo told Public Radio channel 1 on Thursday. “We have to start discussing the merits of the case, and it would be good if the opposition laid its ideas of how to resolve the question on the table.”

Kaczynski, who earlier this month said he saw no room for compromise in the crisis, said on Wednesday that foreign pressure on the government was an indication of how weak his country’s international standing had become after previous administrations refused to rock the boat.

“We’re dealing with a sort of exploitation, which we must systematically bring to an end,” Kaczynski told Public Radio 3, when asked about foreign pressure. “Former Polish governments were unbelievably easy to our partners, so acquiescent.”

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