EC decision to take Poland to CJEU no surprise, says PM

The Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday that the European Commission had decided to take Poland to the EU court (CJEU) is not a surprise, and the government will have to wait for due process.

The PM said the government would await the necessary documentation and then respond.

“We’re waiting for the procedural motion, then, when we’re familiar with it, we will be able to respond,” Morawiecki said. “It doesn’t particularly surprise us, because everybody who’s interested in the matter knows that Poland has for a long time been in a certain dispute as to the remit of reforms to its judicial system.”

According to the PM, the government has shown in its dialogue with the EC how “critically important” judicial reform is.

The government’s spokesperson, Joanna Kopcińska, told PAP Poland is prepared to defend its political and legal interests before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

She went on to say the European Commission’s decision on Monday to bring a case against Poland over its judicial reforms was not a surprise and that the government would answer the charges as soon as the CJEU forwarded the necessary documents.

The EC has motioned the CJEU for a fast-track procedure against Poland and asked the court to suspend some regulations of the Supreme Court law.

“Today’s decision by the EC is not a shock,” Kopcińska told PAP. “For many months there has been an essential difference of opinion between Warsaw and Brussels as to the compatibility of the Supreme Court law and the (EU – PAP) Treaties. We have extensively confirmed our position in pre-litigation letters sent to the EC in recent months.”

“We will address the EC’s charges and other motions as soon as the CJEU sends us the EC documents, in line with procedures,” she added.

Joanna Kopcińska underscored that in the case of temporary measures, which the EC has called for, “it needs to be borne in mind that they can by nature only relate to future events which might hinder reaching a verdict.”

“A member state can only be obliged to change the law by a final verdict of the Court,” the government spokesperson underscored. “Poland is prepared to defend its political and legal interests before the Court,” she asserted. “In its motion, Brussels wants the Supreme Court returned to its state from before April 3, 2018, that is before the rules came into force foreseeing a reduction in the retirement age of judges from 70 to 65. In line with those regulations, 27 of the 72 active Supreme Court judges should have gone into retirement, including (Supreme Court First President – PAP) Judge Małgorzata Gersdorf.”

The EC has also requested that judges who in light of the new rules have already been retired, be returned to adjudicating, even if their place has already been taken by someone else. The EC also wants a halt to the naming of new judges to replace those who have – according to the EC – been “prematurely” retired.

The spokesman for leading opposition party Civic Platform (PO), Jan Grabiec MP, said that by turning to the CJEU, the European Commission was defending Poland’s presence in the EU. “The Lisbon Treaty, negotiated and signed by (former president – PAP) Lech Kaczyński speaks clearly about the principle of the rule of law,” Grabiec told a press conference at the Sejm (lower house) on Monday. “If it is breached by a member state, the European Commission has an obligation to speak out in the matter.”

“There is no doubt that shortening the term of Supreme Court judges and subordinating judges to the ruling party is a breach of the rule-of-law principle,” Grabiec continued, going on to say that changes to the laws on the Supreme Court and National Judicial Council were a case of manipulation to put judges under the authority of the ruling party.

“The European Commission, by turning to the Court of Justice, is standing in defence of Poland’s presence in the European Union,” the PO spokesman asserted. “I hope the court takes the case up quickly because it’s one of the most important issues that currently affect the future of the EU.”

The European Commission has not yet formally presented charges to the CJEU, but should do so in the coming days. After they have been presented, the Court’s first step will be to decide on temporary measures (the possible suspension of the Supreme Court law). The CJEU typically takes such decisions swiftly. In the case of the recent Białowieża Forest dispute with Poland it took six days.

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