Poland’s judicial reforms ‘liable to infringe EU law,’ rules top court

The EU says the changes to the Polish judiciary introduced by the Conservative government are undermining the country’s rule of law. / Czarek Sokolowski / AP

The EU says the changes to the Polish judiciary introduced by the Conservative government are undermining the country’s rule of law. / Czarek Sokolowski / AP

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on Tuesday that the new Polish rules for appointing judges to the Supreme Court could violate EU law.

The judgment obliges the right-wing Polish government to repeal these regulations and to comply with the principles of the independence of the judiciary and the right to judicial protection.

According to the ruling, the Polish judicial reform may “violate EU law” by preventing judges who have been rejected for posts at the Supreme Court from reviewing their decisions.

The judgment, delivered by the Grand Chamber of the EU Court of 15 judges, which hears cases against Member States, complements previous judgments against Poland for changes to the judicial system over the past six years, viewed by critics and the European Commission as undermined judges be ‘independence.

It says: “The guarantees of independence and impartiality required under EU law presuppose the existence of rules for the appointment of judges.”

The official reactions to the EU ruling from Warsaw were strong. / Czarek Sokolowski / AP

The official reactions to the EU ruling from Warsaw were strong. / Czarek Sokolowski / AP

Increased political influence

In a ruling that could have a strong impact on future court rulings related to court appointments, the ruling also allows Polish courts not to apply the state rules introduced in 2018 and 2019 if they believe they are inconsistent stand by EU law.

Legislation in Poland increased political influence over courts and a supreme judicial authority, the National Council of Justice, including the process of appointment to the Supreme Court.

It has also restricted the right of judges to appeal against the decisions of the council.

The European Commission will monitor how Poland implements the ruling, said Christian Wigand, his rule of law official.

The official reactions to the EU ruling from Warsaw were strong.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, a key figure behind the long series of controversial judicial reforms launched by Poland’s nationalist government, criticized the EU court’s decision on Tuesday as “going beyond and violating European treaties”.

He added that the ruling was “unacceptable to us” because it “does not take into account the legal and constitutional order of the country at all”.

He told reporters in Warsaw: “We are dealing here more with politics than with the application of the law.”

And Judge Julia Przylebska, head of the Polish judicial review legislation, said the ruling was “an obvious violation of the Polish constitutional order” and undermined the “foundations of the European Union as a community of sovereign states”.

Przylebska was one of the current government’s earliest judicial appointments.

But many others in Poland welcomed the decision.

“The [EU] The court has set limits on political power, “said lawyer Marcjanna Debska.” It relates not only to the regulations, but also to the political situation, and that means that the court can clearly see what is going on in Poland. “

Opposition Civic Platform leader Borys Budka said the verdict was the “triumph of the law on lawlessness.”

The EU court did not say whether the 2018 and 2019 amendments introduced by the Polish Law and Justice Party violated EU law. / Czarek Sokolowski / AP

The EU court did not say whether the 2018 and 2019 amendments introduced by the Polish Law and Justice Party violated EU law. / Czarek Sokolowski / AP

Multiple warnings

The judgment was in response to a request from the Polish Supreme Administrative Court to the European Court regarding a complaint by some judges.

Polish judges said the new rules had deprived them of the right to appeal against a decision rejecting them as candidates for the Supreme Court.

On the basis of Tuesday’s ruling, the Polish Supreme Administrative Court can now decide to review the appeals of the five judges who are not government loyalists.

It could be decided that the entire 2018 Supreme Court appointment process was flawed and ineffective.

The EU court did not say whether the 2018 and 2019 amendments introduced by the Polish Law and Justice Party violated EU law.

It is up to the Polish Supreme Court to decide.

However, it was pointed out that the court, which is required to apply EU law over Polish law, has to “remove these changes” and use the previous law to hear the challenges of the excluded judges.

The verdict on the “political interference of the Polish government in the judiciary” is concrete evidence that the government openly violates the rule of law despite repeated warnings. It also destroys Europe’s trust in the legal system there, “said Jeroen Lenaers, a member of the European Parliament.

The European Commission has taken several measures against Poland before the EU Court of Justice because Warsaw believes Warsaw is deviating from the rule of law and European democratic norms.

In 2017, the EU executive initiated “Article 7 proceedings” against Poland under the Treaty on European Union.

It could theoretically lead to Poland being deprived of its voting rights in EU proceedings.

But both Poland and Hungary, another Member State in hot water with the Commission over alleged rule of law violations, have signed a mutual protection pact that protects everyone from the unanimous EU vote needed to pass this measure.

Source (s): AP, AFP

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