Lithuanian judges have distanced themselves from the prime minister’s statements that the country should follow Poland’s example to reform the judiciary.
During a joint conference with his Polish counterpart last week, Lithuanian PM Saulius Skvernelis said that Vilnius supported Warsaw in its dispute with the European Commission over controversial judicial reforms. He added that Lithuania, too, should “de-sovietise our justice system”.
The Lithuanian Judicial Council released a statement on Monday, criticising Skvernelis’ support for the reforms in Poland which critics say undermine the rule of law.
“We distance ourselves from any statements supporting this reform,” it said.
According to the Council, Skvernelis words should be attributed to “the tense electoral period”.
“The pragmatic aspiration to maintain close relations of cooperation between the states [Poland and Lithuania] cannot be a reason to deny the fundamental values of democracy,” the Judicial Council said, adding that Lithuania should foster “common European values” in both its domestic and foreign policies.
The Lithuanian judges also expressed “support for the Polish judiciary, the law community and civil society as a whole” in their opposition to “the judicial reform that violates the principles of judicial independence and the rule of law”.
Skvernelis said during last Thursday’s meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that Lithuania would not back the European Commission’s sanctions against Poland. He said the judicial reform was “an internal matter” for Poland.
The European Commission has launched several infringement procedures over judicial reforms initiated by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party. Brussels says the reforms challenge democracy and the rule of law by undermining judicial independence.
The party says its reforms were aimed at fighting corruption in the judiciary.