Poland still hindering constitutional court: legal panel

October 14, 2016 10:40 AM EDT

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By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Poland has failed to ensure the independence of its constitutional court, European law experts said on Friday, as an EU deadline approaches for the government to address accusations its has made the country less democratic.

The European Commission has given Poland's euroskeptic leadership until the end of this month to amend legal changes it made, which critics say make the court subservient to the executive and parliament.

The so-called rule of law procedure could eventually lead to Poland being suspended from voting on EU law - something that has no precedent in the European Union and would require the agreement of all 27 other member states.

On Friday, the Venice Commission, a panel of law experts at the non-EU body the Council of Europe, said in a non-binding opinion that changes Poland had made so far were "too limited in scope".

Polish law continued to "delay and obstruct the work of the tribunal, possibly make its work ineffective, as well as undermine its independence by exercising excessive legislative and executive control over its functioning," the Venice Commission said.

The constitutional court itself ruled the overhaul of the tribunal illegal but the government refused to recognize that ruling, effectively putting it in legal limbo.

"... instead of unblocking the precarious situation of the constitutional tribunal, the parliament and government continue to challenge its position as the final arbiter of constitutional issues and attribute this authority to themselves," the Venice Commission said.

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his concerns about the situation in July and the European Parliament said in April that "the effective paralysis of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland poses a danger to democracy, human rights and the rule of law".

Despite that pressure on the Law and Justice (PiS) party which came to power last year, it seems unlikely that all other 27 EU states will move against Poland, as Hungary, with a similarly nationalist-minded euroskeptic government, has expressed support for Warsaw.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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