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EU opens legal case against Poland

July 2, 2018

The European Commission has argued that Warsaw has violated the rule of law by putting top judges in early retirement. Critics say the ruling Law and Justice party wants to stack the court with supporters.

Poland's Supreme Court building
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Guz

The European Commission launched legal proceedings against the Polish government on Monday, a day before many of the country's Supreme Court judges are being forced into early retirement due to a controversial new law.

Brussels and Warsaw have been at odds over the judicial reforms for two and a half years, with the European Union arguing that Poland is undermining "the principle of judiciary independence."

"Given the lack of progress and the imminent implementation of the new retirement regime for supreme court judges, the Commission decided today to launch the infringement procedure as a matter of urgency," spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

Poland has argued that the law is a necessary reform to outdated regulations that go back to communist rule, but the EU has consistently maintained that it is an attack on democratic checks and balances.

'The constitution guarantees me this position'

The rule-of-law procedure opened on Monday was part of a broader investigation into the Polish government that could potentially lead to sanctions from Brussels. However, any such sanctions would have to be unanimously agreed upon and Poland's close ally Hungary is likely to veto such a measure.

Poland has a month to respond to the announcement. Dozens of the judges targeted by the new law have also announced their intention to defy the new laws and stay in their jobs after Tuesday, claiming the reforms are unconstitutional.

Chief Supreme Court Judge Malgorzata Gersdorf, 66, told DW that she had no intention to abandon her post. "The constitution guarantees me this venerable post for six years, and I see no reason why I should file a petition with the executive branch about it."

Of the 76 judges currently serving Warsaw’s highest court, 27 are over 65. Their departure would allow PiS to stack the court with government-friendly judges.

es/kms (AFP, Reuters)