European Interest

Commission launches infringement procedure against Poland

Flickr/Sakuto/CC BY-NC 2.0
Protest in Poland against government judicial reform plans. July 22, 2017, Poznan.

The European Commission on June 2 launched infringement procedures against Poland. Brussels sent a Letter of Formal Notice to Warsaw regarding the Polish law on the Supreme Court.

This is the Commission’s response against Poland’s judicial reform and time was of the essence.  On July 3, a third of the country’s Supreme Court judges (27 out of 72) face the risk of being forced to retire. This is because the new Polish law lowers the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65.

This measure also applies to the First President of the Supreme Court, whose six-year mandate would be prematurely terminated.

According to the law, Poland’s president has the power to prolong the current judges’ mandate for a period of three years and renewed once. There are no criteria established for the President’s decision and there is no possibility for a judicial review of this decision.

According to a Commission press release, these measures undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges, and thereby Poland fails to fulfil its obligations under Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union read in connection with Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

In separate news, the Agence-Free Presse (AFP) noted that the Commission has been in talks with Warsaw about several judicial reforms that the EU says threaten the rule of law in Poland, but they said swift action was needed on the Supreme Court issue.

“While the Polish Supreme Court law has already been discussed in the context of the rule of law dialogue between the commission and the Polish authorities, it has not been satisfactorily addressed through this process,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters.

As reported by Radio Poland online, Poland’s foreign ministry said the EU executive’s move to launch the Article 7 procedure could hinder efforts to build mutual trust between Warsaw and Brussels.

Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial.

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