Polish system of discipline for judges breaks the law, judges EU’s highest court
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The EU’s highest court has ruled that a contentious Polish system of judicial discipline violates EU law, amid a growing rift between Brussels and Warsaw over judicial independence.
As tensions rise, the European Commission also launched separate lawsuits against Poland and Hungary on Thursday over LGBT + rights.
The decision of the European Court of Justice crowns an almost six-year battle over a judicial overhaul launched by the Polish conservative-nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has turned into a fundamental challenge for the legal order of the EU.
The ECJ declared that a new disciplinary chamber for judges created by the PiS violated EU law because it did not provide sufficient guarantees of impartiality and independence and was not protected from the influence of Polish politicians.
The decision came a day after the Polish Constitutional Court, which critics say was captured by the ruling party, ruled that Poland did not have to apply a previous ECJ order to stay the proceedings in his disciplinary chamber.
PiS politicians have long argued that the EU has no right to intervene and that the government’s judicial changes, which include an attempt to purge the Supreme Court and steps to give politicians power over the body who appoints judges, are needed to shake up an inefficient system.
Critics argue that the measures are an attempt to intimidate independent judges and that the challenge this week by the Polish Constitutional Court of a fundamental element of the EU legal system raises questions about the country’s future in the bloc. .
“We are constantly in the process of a legal ‘Polexit’, which is taking place step by step. We will see where this leads us and if we finally realize which path we are on, ”said Adam Bodnar, Poland’s outgoing mediator, on Wednesday.
The European Commission said on Thursday it was “deeply concerned” by the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court. “This reaffirms our concerns about the rule of law in Poland,” added commission spokesperson Eric Mamer.
“EU law takes precedence over national law. All decisions of the ECJ, including provisional measures, are binding on national courts. The commission is waiting [of] Poland that all decisions of the ECJ are fully and correctly implemented.
He added that the committee is also analyzing the Polish court’s decision regarding the country’s national stimulus plan, which must be approved by the committee before Poland can access EU stimulus funds.
MPs from the ruling camp in Poland have repeatedly rejected suggestions that the country could leave the EU. During a heated debate last year on the link between access to EU funds and the rule of law, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland had said “strongly ‘yes’ to the EU but loudly ‘no’ to the mechanisms that scold us like children “.
The battle for the rule of law and the conflict over LGBT + rights have strained ties between Brussels and Poland, where some municipalities have declared themselves free from the so-called LGBT ideology. He also exposed the tensions between Hungary and Brussels.
Gergely Gulyas, chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said Brussels’ arguments to launch legal proceedings over LGBT + rights in the country were “absurd” and forced.
“I suspect a political motivation behind the attack. The commission operates in a political environment. This environment is not colorful, media pluralism is non-existent, the commission wants to please this environment and now they want to adhere to its standards, ”he said at a press conference.
The committee launched its infringement action against Hungary over the government’s bill to ban access to content depicting or promoting LGBT + people to those under the age of 18.
“We will respond legally,” Gulyas added, “because we believe Hungary’s decision is in line with government goals and the interests of children, and the EU has nothing to do here.”
Additional reporting by Valentina Pop in Brussels