Chief Justice partially suspends contested disciplinary chamber. Justice ministry calls it "submission to CJEU demands"
Poland's Chief Justice on Thursday partially froze a disciplinary chamber for judges at the heart of a deepening dispute with the European Union over judicial independence that could see Warsaw face fines or even an eventual loss of funding. On Friday, a government minister accused the head of Poland's Supreme Court of bowing to the demands of "colonial" European Union officials in a row over the independence of the judiciary that could see Warsaw face financial penalties.
Poland's justice minister, the architect of the judicial reforms opposed by the EU, also criticised Brussels separately. He said Warsaw should not bow to "blackmail" and that, while he backed EU membership, it should not come "at any cost".
Poland faces an August 16 deadline to disband a disciplinary chamber that the EU's top court says does not guarantee judicial independence and undercuts EU laws. If Poland fails to comply, it could be fined or eventually lose some EU funding.
The ruling coalition, led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, is split over whether to resist or compromise to avoid risking financial penalties.
Poland's Chief Justice partially suspends contested Disciplinary Chamber
In two orders published late on Thursday, First President of the Supreme Court, said that no new cases will go to the chamber until legislative changes are introduced or until the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issues a final verdict on the matter. The orders set a final date of November 15 for this suspension.
For disciplinary cases that have already been assigned to judges, Manowska or the head of the Disciplinary Chamber will ask them to decide whether or not to abstain from hearing them.
Manowska had previously lifted a partial suspension of the disciplinary chamber after Poland's constitutional court ruled that the country should not implement interim measures imposed by the CJEU as they were against the constitution.
At the time, Manowska said she was "deeply convinced" that the disciplinary chamber was independent.
She later wrote to President Andrzej Duda urging him and lawmakers to make changes to create an effective system for disciplining judges that cannot be called into question.
"Colonial mindset of Brussels and incomprehensible mindset of the CJEU judges"
PiS members say the CJEU is overstepping its mandate by ruling on the Polish judicial system, and that its reforms will remove a residue of Communist influence and stop some judges seeing themselves as above the law.
Opposition parties, human rights groups and the EU say that giving the justice minister more control over judges, forcing some out and promoting others possibly on political grounds, undermines the independence of the judiciary.
A government spokesperson said courts act independently, and declined further comment on Manowska's decision.
Members of United Poland, a right-wing junior coalition partner, took a tough line against Manowska's decision.
"This is the absolute submission of the First President of the Supreme Court to the demands of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and Brussels officials," Michał Wójcik, a cabinet minister and deputy head of United Poland, told Reuters.
"This is the colonial mindset of Brussels officials and the incomprehensible mindset of the CJEU judges," he said. "In my opinion, our position should be completely tough. Enough submission!"
Justice Minister Ziobro against "illegal blackmail of the EU"
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, the head of United Poland, told Rzeczpospolita daily he opposed "succumbing to the illegal blackmail of the European Union".
"The belief that the EU is a good uncle and gives us money, and that we should accept all its demands at all costs, is propaganda and false," he said.
Asked whether United Poland would remain in the coalition if Poland accepted the CJEU ruling, Ziobro said there were "limits to compromise".
Another junior coalition partner, Accord, said Poland should not put EU funding at risk. Accord spokesperson Magdalena Sroka said she believed Manowska had done the "right thing".
Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters
Źródło zdjęcia głównego: Fotokon / Shutterstock