The European Commission will sue Poland before the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest court in the European Union, for the judicial reform voted in 2019 and implemented early last year.
According to the committee, changes in Polish law undermine the independence of judges, prevent them from applying EU law and violate fundamental principles of the rule of law.
Among other changes, Poland created a disciplinary chamber for Supreme Court judges, with the power to lift immunity, suspend and reduce salaries.
“The mere possibility that judges have to face a case before a body whose independence is not guaranteed creates an inhibiting effect for judges and can affect their own independence. This seriously undermines judicial independence and the obligation to provide effective legal protection, ”says the Commission.
Since last year, three judges have been suspended by the disciplinary chamber after criticizing the government.
The Commission will also ask the ECJ to adopt precautionary measures “to avoid the aggravation of serious and irreparable damage inflicted on the judicial independence and on the legal order of the EU”, action to be judged according to the European Commissioner in justice, Didier Reynders.
Until the merits of the action are judged, the Commission requests the suspension of the disciplinary chamber, the effects of decisions already taken by it and the provisions which prevent Polish judges from applying the provisions of the EU law that protect judicial independence, or to take legal action.
The Polish conservative government has countered the Commission’s accusations, saying the changes are an “exclusively national” matter and do not violate European law.
Since coming to power in Poland in 2015, the Law and Justice Party (PiS) has also tightened its control over the press, attacked LGBT movements and curtailed civil rights, cases which are also under investigation.
In the event of a breach of the independence of the judiciary, there are cases opened in 2017, 2018 and 2019, before the reform that led to the current process.
Authoritarian governments in Poland and Hungary have been investigated on various suspicions of breaches of democratic EU rules, and the Commission has come under pressure from MEPs to act.
Last week, leaders of the largest political groups in the European Parliament sent a letter to EU Executive President Ursula von der Leyen, claiming that the advance of anti-democratic measures in Poland “could lead to the collapse of The union”.
For MEP Dacian Ciolos, leader of the central group Renova Europa, the Polish government promotes “repeated attacks” against the rule of law and “knows that the disciplinary chamber is contrary to European laws, but continues to act”.