EU at breaking point? Meddling Brussels launches legal action against Poland

Saturday, July 29, 2017
By Paul Martin

THE European Commission has launched legal action against Poland’s new controversial judicial reforms as tensions push Warsaw and Brussels to breaking point.

Sat, Jul 29, 2017

Protests have raged on the streets of Warsaw as the Law and Justice Party (PiS) pushes ahead with reforms that Brussels says will undermine the independence of Poland’s common courts.

And in a desperate bid to throw its weight around the European Commission has given Warsaw one month to respond.

The reforms include plans to let the government fire Supreme Court judges.

EU commissioners have decided to launch the “infringement procedure” for violating European Union law, the first step in a legal process that may end at the bloc’s top court, pending publication of Poland’s new law.

The European Commission said in a statement: “The new rules allow the minister of justice to exert influence on individual ordinary judges through, in particular, the vague criteria for the prolongation of their mandates thereby undermining the principle of irremovability of judges.”

The Commission is concerned about discretionary power given to Poland’s minister of justice to prolong the mandates of judges who reach retirement age, as well as to dismiss and appoint court presidents.

It said a key legal concern was the introduction of different retirement ages – for female judges at 60 and male judges at 65.

But Polish deputy foreign minister Konrad Szymanski hit back branding the Commission’s decision “unjustified” because the organisation of the legal systems in EU members was up to member states and not EU institutions.

Mr Szymanski told state news agency PAP court presidents in Poland performed mostly administrative functions.

He also said the new regulation on the retirement of judges was aimed at bringing it into line with a reduction in the retirement age that enters into force in October.

The EU has also warned it would trigger its most serious sanction, Article 7, if Poland goes ahead with the reforms proposed by right-wing PiS.

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