E.U. Rebukes Poland Over Vetoed Bills, but Backs Off Harsher Threat

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WARSAW — Two days after Poland’s president vetoed legislation that would have put the courts under the ruling party’s control, the European Union filed a complaint against the government over the proposed changes.

The union, however, backed off its threat last week that it might invoke a never-before-used provision of the European Union treaty that could have resulted in a formal warning to Poland, economic sanctions and potentially a loss of voting rights in the bloc.

In response to the complaint, Poland’s right-wing government told Brussels to keep out of the country’s internal policies.

“We will not succumb to pressure, blackmail, threats and intimidation,” the minister of justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “We will carry out this good reform in the judiciary and no one will stop us. No threats will stand in our way. We won’t let anyone from the outside treat us this way.”

Frans Timmermans, the second-ranking official in the European Commission, the union’s administrative arm, said on Wednesday that the treaty provision, known as Article 7, could still be invoked in the future if Poland pursued the vetoed moves on the courts.

The commission gave Poland a deadline of a month to respond to its concerns and said it would add this dispute to the list of other complaints it has with Warsaw, Mr. Timmermans said.

The complaints, a so-called Rule of Law Declaration, involve a lengthy legal process that can last years and result in economic sanctions, though that is considered unlikely.

Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice, and its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, were stunned on Monday when President Andrzej Duda — who ran for president as the party’s candidate and previously had steadfast support of the government — vetoed the bills.

One bill would have forced the resignations of all of Poland’s Supreme Court justices, who would have been replaced by government-chosen jurists. The other would have reconfigured the National Council of the Judiciary, the body that chooses who is eligible to be a judge, which would give the government more control and require judges to be approved by parliament.

But the proposals drew more than a week of widespread street protests and a cascade of criticism from officials in Brussels and elsewhere who said the bills, if enacted, would crush judicial independence and threaten the rule of law.

Mr. Duda signed a third bill that gives the justice minister the power to fire and replace the heads of all of the country’s regional courts.

Mr. Timmermans said on Wednesday that the signing of that third bill was reason enough to add the dispute to the earlier complaint. “In the past week, some things have changed in Poland and some things have not,” he said.

“The commission’s recommendation asks the Polish authorities not to take any measure to dismiss or force the retirement of Supreme Court judges,” he added.

Mr. Duda said he would draft his own versions of the vetoed court bills and present them to Parliament in two months. Rafal Bochenek, a spokesman for the government, said it would wait to see those drafts before taking further action.