EU Commission Refers Poland to Europe’s Top Court Regarding Judiciary Independence

The European Commission announced Wednesday it is referring the Polish government to the European Court of Justice — Europe’s top court — for undermining the independence of that country’s judiciary through a reform law passed in 2019. The commission, the European Union’s executive arm, further asked the European court to impose interim measures to prevent the law from being enforced while the issue is considered. The Polish law in question, which went into effect in February 2020, prevents judges from referring questions of law to the European Court of Justice and creates a body — the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court — that rules over judges without regard to EU law. FILE – EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders speaks during a press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 17, 2021.At a news conference in Brussels, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the mere prospect of judges having to face a body whose independence is not guaranteed created a “chilling effect” for the judiciary and makes them subject to the ruling party of the government. The law also includes the lifting of immunity to bring criminal proceedings against judges, temporarily suspend them, and reduce their salaries. Reynders noted the commission had originally expressed its concern about the law last April, and Wednesday’s action “is a crucial step in the infringement procedure concerning the Polish law on the judiciary.” The commission took further steps regarding the law in October and December. On his Twitter account Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said the commission’s referral to the European Court of Justice “has no legal and factual justification. Regulation of the area related to the administration of justice belongs to the exclusive national domain.”

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