“The newly-created Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court does not satisfy the requirements of judicial independence established by EU law,” the Advocate General to the Court of Justice of the European Union said in a statement.
He also said “the manner of appointment” of members of Poland's new National Council of the Judiciary (KRS) “discloses deficiencies that appear likely to compromise its independence from the legislative and executive authorities.”
That statement by Evgeni Tanchev came in response to queries from Poland’s Supreme Court, which had expressed doubts over the independence of the new National Council of the Judiciary and the Disciplinary Chamber elected by it, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.
The European Commission in April said it was launching an infringement procedure against Warsaw over new disciplinary rules for judges, the latest step in a protracted row over alleged rule-of-law breaches in Poland.
The Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, argued at the time that the new rules undermined the independence of Polish judges "by not offering necessary guarantees to protect them from political control."
It added that such guarantees were required by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
“There are legitimate reasons to objectively doubt the independence of the Disciplinary Chamber,” Tanchev said on Thursday in his statement.
His opinion is non-binding and just a suggestion for the top EU court, though in most cases its judges use such opinions when they prepare to rule on cases, the IAR news agency reported.
It said that the final ruling by the top EU court in the case was likely to be issued some time over the next several weeks.
In a separate case, the EU Court of Justice on Monday ruled that a 2017 overhaul of Poland’s judicial system that last year forced a third of its Supreme Court judges into early retirement broke EU law.
According to Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, that ruling by the European Union's top court has "no practical significance” because the country has since reversed the move.
Poland's governing Law and Justice party, which came to power in late 2015, has argued that sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system marred by communist holdovers.
Poland’s prime minister said in January that some of the legal changes made by his conservative government have met with criticism abroad because they are not understood in Western Europe.
Source: PAP, IAR, europa.eu