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Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Commissioner defends criticism of retirement age changes

    Civil Liberties Committee

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Frans Timmermans

    On the issue of the retirement age, Commissioner Timmermans says that all EU states are required to "work towards" the goal of making them the same.

    Those member states with different retirement ages for women and men "have been taking steps towards equal treatment".

    A move to introduce a lower retirement age for women is not acceptable, he adds.

    He calls on those defending Poland to "stop using the argument" that the changes are simply the result of a vote - adding that he cannot remember judicial reform featuring during the campaign.

  2. Commission's concerns 'shared widely' - Timmermans

    Civil Liberties Committee

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Frans Timmermans

    Summing up today's short debate, Frans Timmermans says there should be "no discussion about competence" on this issue.

    The role of the EU Commission is set out clearly in the treaties, he says.

    He adds that concerns about the changes in Poland are "shared widely" by other EU members, who also want Poland to "move away from this path".

    He adds: "Please stop thinking this is only me on a mission against Poland."

  3. Polish MEP defends changes

    Civil Liberties Committee

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Jadwiga Wisniewska

    Polish MEP Jadwiga Wisniewska, from the ruling Law and Justice party, says the Commission's characterisation of the changes to the judiciary present an "entirely false image".

    She says this image is being pushed by opposition parties in the country, which she says haven't accepted their defeat in the 2015 elections.

    The changes amount to a democratically-elected government "implementing its policies", she adds.

    She says that there are differentiated retirement ages for men and women in at least eight EU member states.

  4. MEPs call for clarification on further action

    Civil Liberties Committee

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    German social democrat Josef Weidenholzer accuses the Polish government of "delaying tactics" and asks whether the European Parliament will take further steps against it.

    Portuguese Socialist Ana Gomes says that the "minimum" she expects from the European Commission is to "move towards" proceedings under Article 7.

  5. Timmermans criticises 'whataboutism' over Poland

    Civil Liberties Committee

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Frans Timmermans

    Responding to the first round of questions, Frans Timmermans says the debate about Poland is often characterised by "whataboutism".

    He accuses Helga Stevens of misrepresenting his recent comments on Catalonia, and adds: "Sorry, you cannot divert the discussion."

    He then addresses questions about whether the Commission will activate Article 7 to put additional pressure on Poland.

    If there is "no response whatsoever" to the EU's concerns, he says, then the Commission will have "no other option" but to use other instruments at its disposal.

    He also adds that the independence of judges is "crucial" to making judicial co-operation work, and this will be more difficult if "mutual trust" between EU states breaks down.

  6. EU's rule of law procedure

    Civil Liberties Committee

    • EU introduced mechanism in 2014 to protect fundamental values
    • Activated by "systemic breakdown" affecting proper functioning of state's institutions and mechanisms
    • Three-stage process: Commission assessment and opinion, recommendation of action with time limit and then potential resort to Article 7 of Lisbon Treaty
    • Article 7 can mean suspension of state's voting rights in EU Council, where ministers from 28 states shape EU policy
    • However this requires the unanimous approval of other member states
  7. EU accused of 'double standards' by MEP

    Civil Liberties Committee

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Next up is Flemish nationalist Helga Stevens, who sits in the same political group as the MEPs of the governing Law and Justice party in Poland.

    She draws comparisons between the situation in Poland and the EU's reaction to the behaviour of the police in Barcelona during the recent contested referendum.

    She accuses the EU of being "selective" in its enforcement of the rule of law and "double standards".

    Dutch liberal Sophia in't Veld asks what implications the changes may have for judicial co-operation with other EU countries.

    Sophia in't Veld
  8. MEP 'seriously concerned' about court changes

    Civil Liberties Committee

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Roberta Metsola

    Centre-right Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola says that "never before" has the EU been faced with such a "systematic threat" to the rule of law.

    Her political group, the centre-right EPP, is disappointed with the "lack of will" shown by the Polish government to engage with EU, she adds.

    She is "seriously concerned" about the changes to the Constitutional Court, she says.

    German social democrat Birgit Sippel says the Polish people "deserve better" but says she can't "see an end" to the standoff.

  9. Timmermans outlines criticism of changes

    Civil Liberties Committee

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Frans Timmermans

    Frans Timmermans says the Commission maintains that the changes to judge retirement ages are "incompatible" with EU law.

    He also says the Commission believes the measures allowing the justice minister to prolong the mandate of retiring judges could undermine judges' independence.

    The changes would leave judges asking for a prolonged mandate "at the mercy" of the decision of the President, he says.

    He notes that reforms to the courts have been criticised both inside and outside Poland.

  10. Changes to Poland’s court system

    Civil Liberties Committee

    Andrzej Duda
    Image caption: Andrzej Duda

    The Polish parliament has passed three key judicial changes, prompting days of demonstrations across the country.

    One proposal, giving the justice minister the right to select and dismiss judges in lower courts, was approved by Polish President Andrzej Duda in July.

    However negotiations are ongoing over the future of two other changes which he decided to veto.

    The first of these would require all Supreme Court judges to step down and gives the justice minister the power to decide who should stay on.

    The second gives politicians control over who sits on the National Judiciary Council, which nominates Supreme Court judges.

    The EU has also said a change introducing a later retirement date for male judges compared to female ones could break gender equality laws.

  11. Good afternoon

    Hello and welcome to this meeting of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee in Brussels.

    Today the committee is taking evidence from deputy EU Commission chief Frans Timmermans about the Commission’s probe into the rule of law in Poland.

    The unprecedented inquiry was launched early last year after Poland’s conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government announced changes to the Constitutional Court and media laws.

    A 2014 mechanism allows the Commission to press a member state to change measures considered a "systemic threat" to fundamental EU values.