The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has agreed with the European Commission’s assessment that “judicial reforms in Poland mean that the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority”.
On July 25, the court ruled on a case brought by an Irish judge, who asked if a Pole being sought under a European arrest warrant should be extradited to Poland if changes to the judiciary put the independence of courts in doubt.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, the ECJ said Ireland should refuse extradition if it concluded that the lack of independence of Polish courts would compromise the suspect’s right to a fair trial.
And it said that the “reasoned proposal” put forward by the Commission in December was particularly relevant for such an assessment.
“In the absence of judicial independence, serious questions are raised about the effective application of EU law, from the protection of investments to the mutual recognition of decisions in areas as diverse as child custody disputes or the execution of European Arrest Warrants,” the Commission said.
Poland’s conservative PiS party, which came into power in 2015, has pushed through laws under which dozens of judges have been dismissed from the Constitutional Tribunal, the National Judiciary Council, which decides appointments, and the Supreme Court.
It has also moved powers concerning the appointment of new judges from judicial bodies to parliament, where PiS has majority.
As a result, the Commission is investigating Poland on suspicion of undermining the rule of law.
The ECJ said on July 25 that, for Poland’s courts to be independent and impartial, they had to “exercise their functions wholly autonomously, shielded from external interventions or pressure”.