Fri, 13 Dec 2019

Poland Sees Bigger State Role in Economy, More Court Reforms

Voice of America
20 Nov 2019, 09:05 GMT+10

WARSAW, POLAND - Poland's prime minister set out plans on Tuesday to strengthen the state's role in the economy and deepen an overhaul of the justice system that has put Warsaw on a collision course with its European Union partners.

Mateusz Morawiecki said the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party would continue increasing welfare spending and the share of Polish capital in domestic companies, underlining its break with the free-market reforms of liberal governments before it.

"Neoliberals have fueled a sense of confusion in our value system. Many people were led to believe that the state is a ball and chain," he said in a policy speech to parliament after an Oct. 13 election that gave PiS four more years in power.

"Extremes are not good. We are building a normal state."

Morawiecki spoke repeatedly of a return to "normality," referring both to PiS's economic policies and its conservative vision of the traditional family which has won over voters but has been criticized by opponents for encouraging homophobia.

He promised new welfare programs to help families with at least three children and the elderly.

In separate comments, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said: "Our society... must be based on the Polish family, the family in its traditional sense. A family which takes the form of a relationship between a man and a woman."

Opposition lawmakers criticized PiS's vision of normality.

"The desire for normality means the rule of law and economic prudence, and you break those principles day after day," said Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the largest opposition party, Civic Platform.

Morawiecki's government won a vote of confidence in a late-evening session on Tuesday, with 237 deputies out of 454 lending him their support.

Concerns over rule of law

Since returning to power in 2015, PiS has introduced changes to how courts are run and altered some of the rules governing the Constitutional Tribunal and the Supreme Court.

The European Commission, the EU executive, responded by launching legal action over reforms which it says threaten the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that it was up to Poland's Supreme Court to decide on the independence of the Disciplinary Chamber and the National Judiciary Council, offering some criteria on adherence to EU law.

Morawiecki gave no details of the next steps PiS plans to take in its reforms of the judiciary. The party says further reforms are intended to make the court system more efficient but opponents say the reforms made so far have politicized it.

PiS has said it will keep a balanced budget in 2020, benefiting from one-off revenues and fast economic growth, although some economists say such plans are too ambitious at a time when the European economy is slowing down.

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