Poland reinstates judges after ECJ ruling
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Poland must “immediately suspend” a law forcing its supreme court judges over age 65 to retire.
Polish President Andrzej Duda signed legislation last night (Monday) reinstating more than 25 supreme court judges forced into early retirement.
Critics of Poland’s populist Law and Justice party (PiS), led by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, said the law was an attempt to end judicial independence.
PiS said it respected the decision by the EU’s top court.
“We are members of the European Union and we will abide by European Union law,” the unofficial PiS head, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said in November.
The Law on the Supreme Court, which was introduced in April, changed the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65, pushing 27 of the 72 sitting judges to leave the court.
PiS said the changes were necessary to make the supreme court more efficient.
The nationalist party claimed the judiciary had not been properly reformed after the end of communism in 1989.
The measure sparked protests across Poland and increased tensions with Brussels. Opponents claimed PiS would use the law to appoint justices loyal to the government, removing the judicial check on state power.
In October, the EU’s top court, the ECJ, passed an interim ruling to scrap the law, and yesterday (Monday) it upheld that decision until the court could make a permanent decision next year.
PiS has already appointed the majority of judges to the Constitutional Tribunal, which can veto legislation and controls the process nominating all Polish judges.
The right-wing party said the changes were needed to remove judges appointed before the fall of communism and to make the supreme court more efficient.
The European Commission said the reforms undermined the rule of law because they gave the executive control of the judicial branch.
The head of the supreme court, Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdor, 65, refused to stand down and said Poland’s constitution guaranteed her the right to serve her full six-year term.
She branded the changes a “purge”.
Russian pro-Kremlin broadcaster RT reported that Jacek Czaputowicz, the foreign minister of Poland, hit back by labelling France the “sick man of Europe”, saying its problems were hurting bloc.
He told Polsat News TV that by contrast with the yellow vest unrest and the recent gun attack in Strasbourg, Poland was a “bright spot” of the continent.
The events were proof “that something is not right in France,” Czaputowicz reportedly said. He added that “President Macron’s withdrawal of state reforms” as a result of the rioting was “sad” as well.
PiS has faced large-scale protests over its judicial reforms. Picture credit: YouTube