WELLINGTON, New Zealand – During a visit to New Zealand, Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday defended the moves his nation's government have made to take control of the judicial system.
Poland's conservative government lowered the retirement age for Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65 as part of a broader judicial overhaul which has put it in conflict with the European Union. Poland's Supreme Court this month suspended implementation of the legislation, which would force more than one-third of the court's justices to retire.
Duda told reporters in Auckland that 80 percent of Polish society believes that deep reform of the judicial system is absolutely necessary.
Speaking through an interpreter, Duda said a group of prominent judges were losing influence because they were retiring.
"They're not happy with that, because they are people in high positions who have been members of the Polish judicial system for a very long time," he said. "They were also very deeply involved in the judicial system back in the 1970s when Poland was oppressed by the communists, and these people were also very often members of the Communist Party."
The EU is increasing pressure on Poland over what it sees as flaws in the law, and last week gave Warsaw a month to act before facing possible court action.
The EU Commission said the law falls short of the values guiding the 28-nation bloc, and said that Poland's explanation "does not alleviate the Commission's legal concerns." It said a case could be opened at the EU's highest court in a month.
Duda said the Polish government was fulfilling one of its basic promises.
"I think what we are going through now can be compared to the flu," Duda said. "I hope we are able to recover from this flu and not contract another one."
Duda also defended Poland's immigration policies, after the nation opted out of Europe's migration settlement schemes.
Duda made the comments after meeting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. He's visiting New Zealand until Thursday after earlier visiting Australia.