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EU wants part of Poland's Supreme Court suspended

January 14, 2020

The European Commission has asked the EU's top court to suspend the Poland's chamber set up to discipline judges. The court ruled in December that the disciplinary chamber was not independent.

Protesters demand fairness for Polish judges
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Skarzynski

The European Commission said on Tuesday they will ask the EU's top court to temporarily suspend the functioning of the disciplinary chamber of Poland's Supreme Court.

This may be a setback to the euro-skeptic Polish government, which immediately queried the move.

The disciplinary chamber was introduced by Poland's ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party as part of ongoing judicial reforms that has caused wrangling between the EU and member state Poland.

The disciplinary chamber, directly answering to the PiS, was set up to discipline Polish judges. Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova tweeted that the EU "remain ready to engage in constructive dialogue." 

The Commission, which is the EU's executive branch, said that they made the decision after the European Court of Justice ruled in December that the Polish Supreme Court's disciplinary chamber was not independent.

Read more: What are Poland's controversial judicial reforms?

"Despite the judgments, the Disciplinary Chamber continues to operate, creating a risk of irreparable damage for Polish judges and increasing the chilling effect on the Polish judiciary," said the Commission in a statement.

"Today, the European Commission decided to ask the Court of Justice to impose interim measures on Poland, ordering it to suspend the functioning of the disciplinary chamber of the Supreme Court," the statement added.

A Polish government spokesman said the EU had no grounds to criticize the disciplinary chamber.

Why is the reform so controversial?

The introduction of the disciplinary chamber was one of several controversial judicial reforms that have been criticized by the EU and may jeopardize Poland's place in the European Union.

In addition to the changes made to the functioning of the Supreme Court, the Polish government also sought to be able to more directly punish judges who spoke out against the government and exercise more direct control over the judiciary.

These changes have been widely criticized by the EU and other outsider critics. It is unclear whether Poland would comply with any future decision made by the European Court of Justice.

The reforms led to widespread protests across Poland.

Poles protest forced retirement of judges

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ed/ng (Reuters, dpa)