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Rule of LawEurope

EU takes Poland to court over law 'undermining' judges

March 31, 2021

The Polish government slammed the European Commission's bid to press charges as having "no legal and factual justification."

Poland's Supreme Court building
At issue are reforms made to Poland's judiciary, including at the country's Supreme CourtImage: Kacper Pempel/REUTERS

The European Commission is taking Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over changes to its legal system that it argues "undermines" judicial independence, it said on Wednesday.

Brussels wants the bloc's highest court to make an interim order suspending the 2019 Polish law until a final judgment is delivered.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told a news conference: "The Commission believes that the law infringes upon the independence of the judiciary in Poland and is incompatible with the primacy of the law of the [European] Union."

The court case at the ECJ will be a climax, following escalating legal action taken by the Commission against Poland over its judicial changes.

Poland's judicial alterations in brief

At issue is the Polish law affecting the judiciary that came into force in February last year.

It prevents judges from referring questions of law to the ECJ. It also created a body that rules on judges' independence without regard to EU law.

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The bill also oversaw the creation of a "disciplinary chamber" to oversee Polish supreme court judges. This chamber — criticized for its close ties to the government — has the power to lift their immunity, allowing for judges to face criminal proceedings or cuts to their salaries.

One judge, Igor Tuleya, faced suspension and a 25% salary cut in November. He was among the justices to resist the changes to the legal system. 

The Commission wants the ECJ to suspend the 2019 law as well as the disciplinary chamber and the decisions it has made concerning judges' immunity, "to prevent the aggravation of serious and irreparable harm inflicted to judicial independence and the EU legal order.''

Poland slams EU lawsuit

The European Commission's lawsuit against Poland for alleged breaches of judicial independence "has no legal and factual justification," Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller tweeted.

"Polish regulations do not differ from the standards in force in the EU," he said.

"Regulation related to the area of the administration of justice belongs to the exclusive domain of national governments," not the European Commission in Brussels, he added.

kmm/msh (Reuters, dpa)