The European Commission has launched the EU law infringement procedure over Poland’s disciplinary regime against judges, saying that the new regulations undermine judicial independence.
“The new law on the judiciary undermines the judicial independence of Polish judges and is incompatible with the primacy of EU law. Moreover, the new law prevents Polish courts from directly applying certain provisions of EU law protecting judicial independence, and from putting references for preliminary rulings on such questions to the Court of Justice,” the EC announced in its statement.
The procedure might finally lead to bringing the case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) if the Polish government fails to reach a compromise with the EC.
The EC gave the Polish government two months to respond to its objections.
Jacek Czaputowicz, the Polish Foreign Minister, recalled his statement from January that “if the EC has doubts it can take the issue to the court.”
“CJEU is an institution that settles disputes over EU law. We will try to convince the EC that reforming the judiciary is among the competences of member states,” he said.
He stressed that the Polish government takes the view that it is right and the dispute will be settled to its advantage.
The deputy head of the EC, Vera Jourova, said on Wednesday that EU member states have the right to reform their justice systems, but this must be done without infringing upon EU treaties.
She added the EC had reasons to believe that the legislation could be used to exert political control over court verdicts.
Poland introduced the disciplinary legislation on February 14 to deal with judges who behave unethically or break the law, and notably against those who question the legitimacy of the government-reformed judicial self-governance body National Judicial Council (KRS). Critics say the law may be used to discipline judges who oppose the ruling party’s reforms.