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EU seeks fines against Poland in judicial independence row

September 7, 2021

The EU wants Poland to be fined over new laws the bloc says undermine the country's judiciary. A Polish minister has called the measures 'acts of aggression'.

Europen Court of Justice in Luxembourg
The European Court of Justice is based in LuxembourgImage: Imago Images/P. Scheiber

The European Union wants Europe's top court to fine Poland in an ongoing spat over judicial independence.

The European Commission said on Tuesday that it had asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to impose financial penalties on Warsaw to ensure compliance. 

The measures are in response to new laws that Brussels deems to undermine judicial independence, namely the establishment of a disciplinary panel with authorities over the country's judges.

"Justice systems across the European Union must be independent and fair," said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a written statement.

EU, Poland row over judicial committee

Poland's legal reforms not compliant with EU law

In July, the ECJ determined that Poland's disciplinary chamber did not guarantee impartiality or independence, putting it at odds with EU law.

Warsaw was given a month to explain how it would act on the ECJ ruling, failing that, it would be fined.

In August, Poland gave notice that it would be shutting down the oversight chamber at its Supreme Court.

But this does not appear to have satisfied the EU, which has now requested action from the ECJ. 

"Poland informed about the intention to dismantle the disciplinary chamber in its current form, but without providing any further details," the Commission said in a press statement, adding that the chamber has continued to function since Poland's notification.

The EU has called for punishment in the form of daily fines, the amount of which would to be determined by the court, according to an EU spokesman. 

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told Polish broadcaster Polsat News that Brussels wanted fines that were higher than the 100,000 euros a day demanded for logging in the Bialowieza forest back in 2017. The forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Poland hits back at EU 'aggression'

News of the EU's latest action does not appear to have gone down well in Warsaw.

The country's Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said the measures being sought by the EU were acts of aggression.

Ziobro tweeted: "Under the pretext of law, we are dealing with an agression against Poland."

In August the justice minister said Poland should not backtrack on its judicial reforms. Ziobro also said while EU membership was important it shouldn't come at all costs.

kb/msh (AP, dpa)