PiS judicial law sparks EU legal action
The European Commission has launched legal action against Poland over changes to the way judges are appointed, which allegedly undermines judicial independence.
The new law, which is due to come into effect today (Tuesday), will automatically retire 27 out of 72 supreme court judges against their will. It is assumed they will be replaced by those friendly to the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).
The legislation cuts the retirement age from 70 to 65 with the replacements appointed by the National Judicial Council, which is mostly picked by MPs.
The nationalist government has already undermined the independence of the Constitutional Tribunal, fast-tracked appointments of party-affiliated judges and used state funds to pay for billboard campaigns attacking judges.
One of the jobs of the supreme court is to verify election results, meaning future contests will probably be overseen by judges loyal to PiS’ heads.
The EU’s executive branch said the change breached Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which guaranteed “an independent and impartial” judicial branch.
PiS will have one month to reply to the notice, Brussels said, and the matter could then end up in the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court
Brussels is already in formal talks with Poland over the issue but said there was now an “urgent” and “systemic” threat to the rule of law.
Protests were held last summer against the laws which some opposition figures have characterised as a step towards authoritarianism.
Another group of demonstrators in Warsaw will be protesting against stringent new abortion laws currently being considered in parliament.
A European Commission spokesman said there had been “no step from the Polish side to reverse [the laws], we made the decision to launch the infringement procedure as a matter of urgency to defend the independence of the Polish judiciary”.
“Given the lack of progress through the rule of law dialogue, and the imminent implementation of the new retirement regime for Supreme Court judges, the commission decided to launch this infringement procedure as a matter of urgency,” the commission said.
“The Polish government will have one month to reply to the commission’s letter of formal notice. At the same time, the commission stands ready to continue the ongoing rule of law dialogue with Poland, which remains the commission’s preferred channel for resolving the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland.”
Poland’s PiS and liberal Poles have had their differences since 2015. Picture credit: Pixabay