Brussels gives Poland 3 weeks to improve judges’ independence

Poland must improve the independence of the disciplinary chamber for judges within three weeks. If Poland does not act, the Commission will go to court to impose fines on the country. This is what European Commissioner Didier Reynders (Justice) writes today in a letter to the Polish government.

The disciplinary chamber of the Polish Supreme Court is controversial. The Polish government decides which judges are in it. New judges have been appointed at various courts and lower courts who support the ruling party PiS. According to the Commission, the independence and impartiality of the Disciplinary Chamber is therefore at stake.

Last week, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Disciplinary Chamber as it now functions is contrary to European law. Poland now has three weeks to do something about it.

European Commissioner Vera Jourova (Transparency and Values) emphasizes that European legislation is binding. “We do not live in a Europe à la carte. European laws take precedence over national laws.” She also seems to refer to a statement of the Polish Constitutional Court. It ruled last week that it has nothing to say to the European Court on internal matters and that the Polish Disciplinary Chamber can continue to do its job.

Rule of Law Report

The European Commission gave Hungary and Poland another slap on the wrist today. The position of independent judges, among others, has deteriorated again this year in those countries. The Commission concludes this in a report on the rule of law in all European member states.

The Commission annually examines, among other things, freedom of the press, the fight against corruption and the independence of the judiciary in European countries. It has sometimes been compared to an APK for the rule of law. While the Commission sees an overall improvement, this is not the case for Hungary and Poland. The EU has been troubling for years that the two countries are weakening their rule of law.

Corruption

The situation in Hungary is not much better. Hungary, for example, is said to be doing too little to combat high-level corruption. Press freedom is also under threat. For example, it is still made difficult for independent media and journalists and, according to the Commission, there is intimidation.

Other countries that have previously come under fire for corruption or curbing press freedom, such as Bulgaria and Slovenia, have also been criticized. For example, the Commission is concerned about the Slovenian news agency STA, whose subsidy was suddenly stopped this year.

The criticism in the report has no direct consequences for the countries. But the conclusions of the report could ultimately be used by the Commission to demand financial penalties. In addition, since last January, the Commission can also eventually stop subsidies if countries do not show respect for their rule of law.

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