The European Commission decided on Monday to refer Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), arguing that the reform of its Supreme Court undermines the independence of the Polish judicial system.
Last July, the EU executive sent a letter of formal notice regarding this reform to Warsaw, the first step in the EU infringement procedure. A reasoned opinion followed in August.
However, the Polish authorities’ response on both occasions “failed to dispel the legal concerns” raised by the Commission, which has now started the third stage of the infringement procedure.
Brussels maintains that the law is “incompatible with EU law, since it undermines the principle of the independence of the judiciary, including the irremovability of judges”.
The law in question lowers the age of retirement for Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65 years, which may force more than one third (27 out of 72) of sitting judges to retire.
For nearly two years, Brussels has been fighting a number of legal battles against the Polish government. Poland is already subject to the Article 7 procedure with respect to what the European Commission sees as threats to the rule of law in the country.
Warsaw defends itself by claiming that its various reforms are only intended to improve the efficiency of the courts and to eliminate any lingering influence from the former communist regime.
On Monday, the Commission added a request for “interim measures” to the CJEU, “to restore the Polish Supreme Court to its position prior to 3 April 2018, when the new legislation was adopted”. It also asked the Court to conduct an “accelerated procedure” allowing for a “final decision as soon as possible”.