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EU European Commission warns could halt Polish voting rights over court reforms

Timmermans said he welcomed the fact that Polish President Andrzej Duda had vetoed two judicial reforms.

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Protesters demonstrate in front of the Polish Supreme Court in Warsaw on July 23, 2017 play

Protesters demonstrate in front of the Polish Supreme Court in Warsaw on July 23, 2017

(AFP)

The EU will "immediately" take steps to halt Poland's voting rights in the bloc if it pushes through with controversial reforms of the country's top court, European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans said Wednesday.

Timmermans said he welcomed the fact that Polish President Andrzej Duda had vetoed two judicial reforms introduced by the right-wing government, including the Supreme Court overhaul, but noted that two other laws had already been passed.

"The commission's recommendation asks the Polish authorities not to take any measure to dismiss or force the retirement of supreme court judges. If such a measure is taken the commission is ready to immediately trigger the Article 7 procedure," Timmermans said.

Article 7 is a never-before-used EU process that is designed to uphold the rule of law, a so-called "nuclear option" that can freeze a country's right to vote in meetings of EU ministers.

Polish President Andrzej Duda announces he will veto controversial judicial reforms in Warsaw on July 24, 2017 play

Polish President Andrzej Duda announces he will veto controversial judicial reforms in Warsaw on July 24, 2017

(AFP)

Dutchman Timmermans said that Brussels was still putting Warsaw on notice amid continuing fears that the Polish government's reforms could jeopardise the independence of the judiciary.

"In this past week some things have changed in Poland -- and some things have not," Timmermans said after European Commissioner met to discuss the issue for the second week in a row.

"We must acknowledge and welcome that President Duda has announced his decision to veto two of the four laws," he said.

"However the fact that two of the four laws have been signed, and that work will continue on the other two, means that we must set out clearly our concern" in a fresh legal recommendation, he added.

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