President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, makes a statement about changes in the judicial law and Supreme Court at Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland on July 18, 2017.
Mateusz Wlodarczyk—NurPhoto/Getty Images
By Tara John
July 24, 2017

In a surprise move, Poland‘s President Andrzej Duda vetoed two laws on Monday that would given lawmakers wide-ranging powers over the judiciary.

The bills have drawn fierce criticism from the E.U., which threatened legal sanctions, and widespread protests over fears that the government was eroding democratic norms of the rule of law and judicial independence.

“I feel that the reform in this shape will not increase the sense of security and justice,” Duda told a press conference on Monday, the New York Times reports. Duda’s unexpected intervention deals a blow to his right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), which claims that the laws were needed to help carry out judicial reform.

One of the scrapped bills would have forced the resignation of all Supreme Court justices, except for those kept on by the president, while the second would have given parliament control over the body that appoints judges, the National Judicial Council. Critics have condemned the package of legislation, calling it a power grab by PiS— which narrowly gained a majority in Poland’s 2015 election.

Duda later said he would sign a third bill, which gives the country’s justice minister the power to select the heads of regional courts.

The news comes two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited Poland, getting a warm reception from a conservative government that shares much of his skepticism towards mainstream EU thinking, notably on the question of migration.

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