Reuters International

Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo speaks at the Parliament in Warsaw, Poland May 20, 2016. Agencja Gazeta/Kuba Atys via REUTERS

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By Alastair Macdonald

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The deputy head of the European Commission flew to Warsaw on Tuesday hoping to resolve a confrontation between Poland and the EU over government changes to the constitutional court that have raised concerns about the rule of law.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the EU executive, said he would meet Prime Minister Beata Szydlo of the eurosceptic, right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party for talks that EU officials said would start at 2 p.m. (noon GMT).

Last week, the Commission gave Timmermans a mandate to deliver a formal diplomatic note on the issue to Warsaw by Monday unless Poland made substantial progress in addressing the concerns raised in Brussels over democratic rights. Such a note could lead to penalties.

Szydlo said last week she would "not yield to any ultimatum" from Brussels.

Intensive talks among officials over the past few days had persuaded the Commission to allow more time and an EU official said on Tuesday that Timmermans was there to conduct further negotiations rather than simply to deliver the communication which could, ultimately, lead to sanctions against Poland.

He would "continue constructive dialogue and look for solutions", Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said.

Following an election in October, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's PiS took power and has made changes to Poland's constitutional court that critics say has undermined the judges' independence and so infringed the European Union's democratic standards.

(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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