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EU judicial body excludes Poland’s judiciary council from its ranks

The extraordinary general assembly of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), the body which advises the EU’s executive on upholding the rule of law in the bloc, excluded the Polish National Council of the Judiciary (KRS) from its ranks on Thursday.

In the opinion of the ENCJ, the method of electing judges to members of the National Council of the Judiciary does not guarantee independence from the legislative and executive powers, and such independence is a condition for membership in the ENCJ.

At the ENCJ meeting, which took place in Vilnius, 86 votes were cast in favour of excluding the KRS from the body’s ranks. No one was against it, while six members were absent.

ENCJ President Filippo Donati stressed that this decision was made to defend the values of the Council and the values on which each of the individual national councils must be based.

“It must be made clear that we are not closing the door to the KRS,” he stated, adding that “once the NCJ fulfills the requirements of independence from political power, we will be delighted to welcome the Council into our ranks.”

The KRS chairman Paweł Styrna refused to participate in the assembly held in Vilnius. In his letter to Mr Donati, he wrote that “the decision of the ENCJ to suspend the National Council of the Judiciary as a member of this organisation was taken without any legal basis and is contrary to the statutes of the ENCJ”.

After the announcement of the ENCJ’s decision, Mr Styrna said it would not affect the activities of KRS. “Regardless of the opinions of international organisations, the Council was and is a constitutional, independent body that safeguards the independence of judges and the judiciary. We will not be subject to any pressure, also from international bodies,” Judge Styrna stressed.

The ENCJ suspended Poland’s KRS in September 2018, following a recent court reform which “no longer fulfils the independent delivery of justice.”

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