The European Commission has escalated its concerns over judicial independence in Poland, calling on the EU’s Court of Justice to impose daily fines on Warsaw as part of its infringement procedure against the country.
The Commission argued that Poland has failed to abide by the Court’s interim measures issued in July, which refer to the establishment of a controversial chamber in the Polish Supreme Court with the mandate to discipline judges and prosecutors.
“Today the Commission takes #Poland to the EU Court,” announced EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders on Twitter, “We are requesting financial penalties for non-respect of interim measures and asking for the full implementation of the judgment of 15 July.”
“It is my duty, as Justice Commissioner, to ensure the independence of European judges,” Reynders continued.
Brussels views the disciplinary chamber as a threat to Poland’s judicial independence, and a move that will see judges subject to political control. Warsaw insists the chamber is a vital tool in eradicating the remains of the communist regime that last held power in 1989.
The EU’s Court of Justice issued the July injunction in a bid to suspend the new chamber, as well as curb the effects of decisions already taken following the lifting of judicial immunity. The injunction was rejected, however, by the Polish constitutional tribunal, on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the Polish Constitution and therefore non-binding.
The primacy of European law is one of the EU’s fundamental principles, making the Polish tribunal’s decision all the more extraordinary. Some legal observers interpreted the move as a bid by the right-wing government to undermine the power of EU laws within the country, and perhaps even take a step away from the bloc.
In response, the Commission gave Poland until 16 August to abide by the July ruling, and suspend the disciplinary chamber. After that, the executive would seek daily penalties- the final step of an infringement procedure.
The Polish government sent a reply on the same day promising to dismantle the chamber, but the Commission says it believes Warsaw “has not taken all the measures necessary to fully comply” with the July injunction.
The executive has since launched a separate infringement procedure against Poland in relation to another ruling by the EU’s Court of Justice, arguing that the legislation underpinning the disciplinary chamber is in breach of EU law.
Polish authorities, says Brussels, have failed to apply this judgement also.
This latest escalation comes as the Commission continues its internal review of Poland’s recovery and resilience plan. While the €36 billion plan was submitted in May, the Commission has continued to postpone its publication.