EU's decision against Poland has no merit - PiS party spokeswoman

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"A country that is drifting away from the rule of law can not at the same time ask Brussels to be supported by billions (of euros) in funding", French minister Loiseau said.

European Commission's decision to launch the so-called Article 7 procedure against Poland on Wednesday has no merit and is politically motivated, Polish ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party spokeswoman said.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission, told reporters in Brussels that the Commission was invoking the treaty clause "with a heavy heart".

He added: "Sadly, our concerns have deepened". Polish President Andrzej Duda vetoed two of these bills, which concerned the National Council of Judiciary and the Supreme Court, but reintroduced them once amended. Soon after the publication of the new legislation, the European Commission started an infringement procedure against Poland as the law on ordinary courts violated EU laws regarding judicial independence as well as gender equality, due to different retirement ages for men and women. Poland has refused to implement the "recommendations" from Brussels, defending its right to clean up what it says is a corrupt judicial "caste".

Under the Polish government's changes, nearly 40 per cent of current Supreme Court judges would be forced into retirement, with discretionary powers given to the president to retain favoured justices.

The European Commission will suggest that member states recognize that Poland is at risk of seriously breaching the bloc's common values.

The initial phase that the EU's commission, the bloc's executive arm, may set in motion on Wednesday allows member states to "determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach" of the rule of law.

The second vote would however be harder to pass, because it requires the unanimous consent of the other European Union member states - and Hungary's right-wing authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has said he would vote against such a move.

European Union member states must now decide by a two-thirds majority whether they agree with the Commission's recommendation to trigger Article 7, which could lead to a suspension of voting rights.

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