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Brussels opens new case against Poland over Supreme Court reforms

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 02.07.2018 13:04
Brussels on Monday launched a procedure against Warsaw over its reform of the Supreme Court amid an ongoing row over an alleged threat to the rule of law in Poland.
The European Commission's headquarters at the Berlaymont building, Brussels. Photo: Wikimedia commons/Sebastien Bertrand.The European Commission's headquarters at the Berlaymont building, Brussels. Photo: Wikimedia commons/Sebastien Bertrand.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said that new laws on the Polish top court “undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges”.

Under Poland’s new law, the retirement age of Supreme Court judges has been lowered to 65, which will see more than a third of them forced to prematurely leave their posts on Tuesday, the commission said in a statement.

Brussels' new case against Poland comes after months of talks which followed a slew of controversial changes to Poland’s judiciary since the conservative Law and Justice party came to power in late 2015.

Poland since made some changes to its reformed laws. Brussels said it was not enough but Warsaw said there was no more room for compromise.

Article 7

The European Commission last December took the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, stepping up pressure on Warsaw over judicial reforms.

The move could pave the way for sanctions being imposed on Poland, for example suspending its voting rights in the European Union. But penalties on Warsaw would have to be backed unanimously by EU member states, while Hungary has said it would not support sanctions.

Legal case against Poland

Brussels last December also launched an infringement procedure against Warsaw to the Court of Justice of the European Union after Poland introduced a new law on “ordinary courts.”

Brussels claims the law is a threat to the independence of the judiciary in Poland. Poland’s ruling conservatives have rejected such charges.

Meanwhile, Poland’s foreign ministry said the EU executive's move to launch the Article 7 procedure could hinder efforts to build mutual trust between Warsaw and Brussels.

Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system tainted by the communist past, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.

But opponents have accused Law and Justice of aiming to stack courts with its own candidates and to dismantle the rule of law.

'Double standards'

Polish officials have argued that Poland had "imported [legal] solutions that already exist in many EU member states,” accusing Brussels of using a double standard. (vb)

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