Reuters International

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The European Parliament declared on Wednesday that an "effective paralysis" of Poland's top constitutional court posed a threat to democracy in the biggest eastern EU state, joining critics of the eurosceptic government in Warsaw.

In January, the EU launched an unprecedented rule of law procedure against Poland over changes to the constitutional court and public media introduced since the Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power late last year with its combination of conservative social values with left-wing economic policies.

European Parliament lawmakers adopted a resolution on Wednesday, agreeing they were "seriously concerned that the effective paralysis of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland poses a danger to democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

The resolution passed with 513 votes for, 142 against and 30 abstentions.

PiS enacted a law increasing the number of judges required to make rulings on the Constitutional Tribunal and changing the order in which cases are heard.

Critics say the changes have made it difficult for judges to review new legislation, let along challenge it. The court itself has struck them down as unconstitutional. The government has refused to recognise that ruling, effectively putting it in legal limbo.

The European Parliament urged Poland to follow through on the top court's ruling and urged the EU's executive European Commission to advance its rule of law procedure should Warsaw not do that.

The ultimate sanction, though unlikely, would be to strip Poland of its voting rights in the EU.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

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