European Commission decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the law on the judiciary of 20 December 2019, which entered into force on 14 February 2020. The Commission also decided to ask the Court of Justice to order interim measures until it has issued a final judgment in the case.
The Commission considers that the Polish law on the judiciary undermines the independence of Polish judges and is incompatible with the primacy of EU law. Moreover, the law prevents Polish courts, including by using disciplinary proceedings, 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.
Commissioner Reynders EU debates the referral of Poland to the European Court of Justice
We will request that the European Court of Justice in its interim measures:
- Suspends the provisions empowering the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to decide on the lifting of the immunity of judges;
- Suspends the effects of decisions that the Disciplinary Chamber has already taken on the lifting of immunity of judges; and
- Suspends the provisions that prevent Polish judges from directly applying EU law protecting judicial independence, and from making referrals for preliminary rulings on such questions.
To conclude, since it was not possible to resolve our concerns on the law on the judiciary with the Polish authorities, the Commission decided to seize the European Court of Justice on this matter. More broadly speaking, the Commission continues to monitor the situation of the rule of law in all Member States, including in Poland.
We are doing so via the rule of law mechanism, with the Commission’s annual rule of law report at its centre. It is a means for Member States to engage with each other and with the Commission, to create a rule of law culture, to prevent rule of law issues from arising or deepening, and to resolve those that exist.
Poland countdowns a month to respond to justice system fears
European Commission gave Poland a month to respond regarding the new disciplinary regime for judges and Rule of Law in Poland. The Polish government violates EU law for allowing the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to control judges and the way they do their jobs. The disciplinary regime undermines the judicial independence of Polish judges by not offering necessary guarantees to protect them from political control, as required by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The Polish Government had last month to take the necessary measures to comply with EU law, otherwise the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice.
Rule of Law history
Events in Poland led the European Commission to open a dialogue with the Polish Government in January 2016 under the Rule of Law Framework. The process is based on a continuous dialogue between the Commission and the Member State concerned. The Commission keeps the European Parliament and Council regularly informed.
Věra Jourová is deeply concerned about the undermine of judicial independence in Poland
I am deeply concerned about the continued actions that undermine judicial independence in Poland. Despite the rulings of the European Court of Justice and our numerous attempts to remedy the situation , the pressure on Polish judges continues to increase and their independence is under constant erosion.
This is why we have decided to again refer Poland to the European Court of Justice and ask for interim measures . In our view , many elements of the judiciary law from December 2019 and its application in practice are violating EU law. I am particularly concerned about the actions of the Disciplinary Chamber that continues to be used as an element pressuring judges. We expect the Chamber to stop its operations immediately and we request the suspension of its decisions already taken , especially when it comes to the lifting of judicial immunity.
Polish judges are also European judges , they apply EU law and contribute to the mutual trust on which Europe is built. National governments are free to reform the judiciary , but while doing so they have to respect the EU treaties. Let me stress – this is not an ideological issue.
Rule of law and judicial independence are neither left – wing or right – wing . In simple terms , making the judicial system increasingly dependent on the will of politicians decreases control over what those politicians do and is not a direction that will restore the trust of citizens in the judiciary. I remain open to finding constructive solutions with the Polish authorities based on the Treaties and the rulings of the European Court of Justice.
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