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EU justice commissioner expresses serious concern over judicial reforms

Reynders also pointed to irregularities in the procedure for appointing judges to the Constitutional Tribunal, and conveyed the EC's strong concern over that tribunal's rulings of July 14 and October 7 which questioned the primacy of EU law over national legislation.
JULIEN WARNAND/PAP/EPA

Didier Reynders, the EU’s justice commissioner, has told two committees of Poland’s lower house of parliament that the government’s overhaul of the judicial system is a source of serious concern.

Reynders presented the Justice and Human Rights Committee and the European Union Affairs Committee with a report on the rule of law in Poland in 2021, which covers four areas: the judicial system, the fight against corruption, media pluralism and other institutional issues related to mechanisms of checks and balances.

Reynders said the rule of law represented the legal, political and economic backbone of the EU and shortcomings in this regard impact other countries. He added that the report was an element of the EU’s internal dialogue aimed at preventing problems or the exacerbation of existing ones.

Changes to the judicial system the government has made since 2015 have increased the influence of the executive and legislative powers on the judicial system to the detriment of the independence of judges and have led the European Commission (EC) to launch procedures under the bloc’s sanctioning Article 7, which are still in progress, Reynders said.

Reynders reminded the committees that in April 2021, the EC had referred the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over laws that he said seriously undermined judicial independence and were incompatible with EU law and that in July 2021 the CJEU had imposed interim measures in the case.

Because those measures had not been implemented, he added, the court had imposed a daily financial penalty on Poland.

He also said the CJEU had ruled in July 2021 that Poland’s system for disciplining judges is inconsistent with EU law and that the National Council of the Judiciary is still operating despite its independence being questioned.

Reynders also pointed to irregularities in the procedure for appointing judges to the Constitutional Tribunal, and conveyed the EC’s strong concern over that tribunal’s rulings of July 14 and October 7 which questioned the primacy of EU law over national legislation.

Poles, added Reynders, should be able to rely on just and equal treatment by the judicial system, like all EU citizens and the bloc could not and would not allow its common values to be exposed to risk. 


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