EU’s top court: Poland must reverse legal changes

EU’s top court: Poland must reverse legal changes

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ordered Poland to reverse a purge on supreme court judges and halt their planned replacement with justices deemed friendly to the government.

The Luxembourg-based tribunal issued an injunction stopping the Polish law, blocking any changes to judicial appointments and ordering the reinstatement of displaced judges.

Since coming to office in 2015, Poland’s populist Law and Justice (PiS) government has altered judicial appointments in the country of 38 million people, leading to accusations that it is undermining a vital check on power and the independence of the judiciary.

Another law forced around a third of Polish supreme court judges into early retirement this year.

The Law on the Supreme Court, which came into force on April 3, ruled all Supreme Court judges over the age of 65 must retire, pushing 27 of the 72 justices out of the court.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s administration said the measures were needed to strengthen democracy but they sparked protests across the country and escalated tensions between Brussels and Poland’s right-wing administration.

“We are convincing our European partners toward our views while maintaining good relations,” Morawiecki told the media in Brussels from the EU summit. “We love the EU and the EU loves us. All citizens understand that this a tough game where every nation is defending its interests.”

The European Commission sued Poland last month for undermining the rule of law by liming judicial independence, which is denied by Warsaw. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said democratic values in Poland “deteriorated” after the authorities sped up nominations of new judges.

In her order, the ECJ’s vice president, Rosario Silva de Lapuerta, “provisionally grants” all the European Commission’s requests, ruling the condition of “urgency” in this case had been met.

Polish judicial disciplinary agencies reinvigorated by the PiS have started proceedings against judges who publicly criticise the controversial legal reforms.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry said the ECJ’s final injunction required a response from Warsaw and is, therefore “provisional” because it has not considered the Polish response.

The decision comes ahead of municipal elections tomorrow (Sunday), where PiS is seeking to boost regional control and the leadership of larger cities.

Poland’s zloty changed little against the euro on Friday, while benchmark government bond yields rose to a one-week high.

Poland’s PiS has proved highly divisive. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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