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EU executive to ask ECJ for interim measures against Poland over disciplining judges

TVN24 News in English

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Ursula von der Leyen during the debate in StrasbourgEBS
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The European Commission decided on Tuesday in Strasbourg that it would ask the European Court of Justice for interim measures regarding disciplinary regime for Polish judges. If the EU top court approves this request, the works of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court will have to be suspended.

At the session of the EU Commission a discussion on the rule of law in Poland, including potential interim measures that could be taken BY the CJEU, took place on Tuesday. In question were the disciplinary measures introduced to the Polish judiciary, contested by the EU executive in the Court of Justice of the EU.

"The College decided to authorise the legal service to ask for interim measures to the European Court of Justice related to the infringement procedure initiated by the European Commission on the issue of the disciplinary regime for Polish judges," EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said at a press conference after the discussion.

EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmit from LuxembourgEBS

The session was devoted to the disciplinary measures for judges implemented into Polish judicial system. The European Parliament is to adopt a resolution on Thursday greenlighting the Commission to request the said measures.

The European Union's executive arm said its move came after a preliminary ruling of the EU's Court of Justice on November 19th, 2019, which asked the Polish Supreme Court to decide if the new Disciplinary Chamber, appointed by the ruling PiS party, was independent.

Von der Leyen stressed that it was important for the Commission be engaged in a dialogue with representatives of the Polish justice system and Polish government.

Complaint filed to CJEU

The European Union's executive on October 10 filed a case at the bloc's top court against Poland's ruling nationalists over new measures they have introduced for disciplining judges, which the EU says violates the principle of judicial independence.

The Commission said in a statement that it was acting "on the grounds that the new disciplinary regime undermines the judicial independence of Polish judges and does not ensure the necessary guarantees to protect judges from political control."

Poland has several other such court cases running over rule of law concerns, migration and climate change - all prominent areas where PiS has clashed with the EU. More such feuds are expected should the party secure another four-year term in government.

International judges and lawyers joined "Thousand Robes March" in Warsaw on January 11th, 2020tvn24

"Muzzle law"

Poland's lower house of parliament approved the latest reform of the judiciary on December 20th, despite the European Commission calling it to hold off adopting a law which it says would imperil the rule of law.

The European Commission believes the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has been politicising the judiciary since it came to power in 2015 and it has launched unprecedented legal steps against Poland to preserve the courts' independence.

Commission spokesman Christian Wigand told reporters that Commision Vice President Vera Jourova had written to Polish authorities in December expressing concern about the draft law.

The lower house approved the legislation on Friday and now it goes to the opposition-controlled upper chamber, the Senatetvn24

Still, PiS, which has a majority in the lower house of parliament, approved the bill and the government spokesman said that the commission probably issued its opinion "without having reliable information" about the changes.

The ruling party slightly watered down its proposals, by removing from the bill rules that would require judges to reveal the names of social media accounts they use under pseudonyms.

The legislation will still allow the punishment of judges who question their peers' legal status or the validity of other courts, for example, by cutting their salaries or dismissing them.

"I would not like to live in a country where these regulations are implemented, because it will mean that we – as citizens - will not have the right to an independent court," ombudsman Adam Bodnar told TVN24.

Bill stuck in Senate

The latest judiciary overhaul came after some judges questioned the independence of peers nominated by a panel set up under rules drawn up by the PiS-dominated parliament after nationalists won the 2015 elections.

PiS argues that the reforms are necessary to make Poland's courts more efficient.

The legislation will now be discussed in the upper house of parliament, the Senate, which has been controlled by anti-PiS parties. The opposition can delay the legislation, but has no power to derail it, experts say.

The Senate is controlled by opposition parties, yet it can only delay the bill on courtstvn24

Autor: gf / Źródło: TVN24 News in English, PAP

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