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  Judicial reform in Poland

  25 Debates

In the legal dispute between Poland and the EU, the European Court of Justice has imposed a record fine on Warsaw. Poland has been ordered to pay one million euros per day until the controversial disciplinary chamber - which according to the ECJ judges violates the separation of powers - is abolished. Commentators examine the background to this dispute over competences and believe the EU has the upper hand here.

The dispute over Poland's rule of law came to a head in Strasbourg last Tuesday: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to block the Covid recovery aid requested by Warsaw until the country rescinds its contested judicial reforms. Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused the EU of blackmail, but at the end of the week held talks with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.

The Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw has ruled that parts of EU law are not compatible with the Polish constitution. Specifically, the ruling focuses on provisions that the EU Commission uses to justify its right to a say in matters pertaining to the rule of law. The press discusses how Brussels should react to this affront and whether a Polexit is imminent.

The EU Commission has asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to impose fines on Poland. This comes in response to the ECJ's ruling demanding the suspension of the controversial Disciplinary Chamber in Poland's Supreme Court, which can review and dismiss judges and prosecutors. So far, the government has not complied. What can the penal proceedings achieve?

In its dispute with the EU, the Polish government has announced plans to reform the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. According to PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, initial proposals for changes to the country's controversial judicial reform are to be presented in September. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in July that Poland is violating European law with its system for disciplining judges.

The row over Poland's judicial reform is heating up: this morning, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that the Disciplinary Chamber at the Supreme Court violates EU law. For its part the Polish Constitutional Tribunal was due to decide today whether European law is compatible with the Polish constitution, but has now postponed the ruling without further explanation. If it decides that the constitution takes precedence over EU law, observers say there can only be one conclusion.

Despite harsh criticism from the opposition and the EU, Poland's President Andrzej Duda last week signed a new law which foresees harsh penalties for judges. If members of the judiciary call into question the judicial reform which the PiS has been implementing in a step-by-step process since 2016 they now face fines, demotion and even dismissal. Journalists see the legal dispute between the EU and Warsaw escalating.

Poland's Supreme Court has ruled that the newly created Disciplinary Chamber, which is tasked with evaluating judges and prosecutors and if necessary dismissing them, is unlawful. Its members are appointed by the National Council of the Judiciary, which is in turn elected by Parliament. As a result, the body is not sufficiently independent from the government, according to the ruling. What are the consequences?

The EU Commission has referred Poland to the European Court of Justice for forcing top judges into retirement. It argues that the government in Warsaw's reform of the country's Supreme Court undermined the principle of judicial independence. Commentators welcome the step but fear it comes too late.

The dismissed judges of Poland's Supreme Court have taken their case to the European Court of Justice. They refuse to go into retirement, as the controversial judicial reform of the national conservative PiS government stipulates. Commentators highlight the risks of this conflict.

As a result of Poland's judicial reform, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Wednesday that EU member states can refuse to enforce Polish arrest warrants if they have grounds to believe that suspects extradited to Poland would not receive a fair trial. Commentators view the decision as both a source of relief and a disaster.

In defiance of a new law that obliges 27 of the country's 73 Supreme Court judges to retire, the latter turned up for work as usual on Wednesday morning. The EU has accused Poland of seeking to "systematically weaken the rule of law". The dismantling of democracy could harm Poland for years to come and be copied in other countries, journalists fear.

An Irish court has halted the extradition of a Pole wanted on drug trafficking charges under a European arrest warrant. The High Court in Dublin referred the matter to the European Court of Justice over concerns about the state of Polish justice after the reforms carried out by the PiS government. What repercussions will this dispute have?

The EU Commission will decide today whether to take punitive measures against Poland under Article 7 of the EU treaty. The background to the move is the package of judicial reforms launched by the ruling PiS which in the opinion of many people in the EU endangers the separation of powers in the country. Such proceedings could end with Poland being stripped of its voting rights in the Council of the European Union.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has presented a counterproposal to the government's controversial plans for judicial reform and changes to the constitution. Under his proposals the government would have less influence on the appointment of judges while the president would have more. Commentators criticise the move and see it in part as an attack against PiS leader Kaczyński.

EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans has severely criticised Poland's government for not showing any willingness to compromise over the judicial reform and not even trying to overcome the EU Commission's concerns. His comments have met with widespread indignation in Poland. The country's media explain why.

Tensions continue to mount in the row over Poland's judicial reform. The government in Warsaw on Monday failed to observe a deadline set by the EU Commission and announced that in its view criticism of the reform was baseless. Europe's journalists voice concern over the conflict between Warsaw and the Commission.

In the conflict over Poland's controversial judicial reform many voices in other EU countries are calling for stringent measures against Warsaw. Within Poland these demands have fanned anti-European and anti-German sentiment. Pro-PiS media have for example reported that Germany financed the protests of recent weeks. Commentators look at how Berlin and Brussels are being portrayed in Poland.

At the latest since the clash over Poland's judicial reform it has become clear just how deep the divisions between the government and the opposition are. Europe's press looks at how the current political crisis in the country has been determined by events of the past.

Two days after Polish President Andrzej Duda used his veto to stop two of the three laws on judicial reform, Europe's press continues to speculate about his reasons. Some see his veto as a success for the demonstrators. For others the president is no more than a puppet on a string held by PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński.

In a surprise move in the row over the PiS's proposed judicial reforms, Poland's President Duda has threatened to use his power of veto. The president let it be known that he would only sign the law on the nomination of judges to Poland's Supreme Court if his amendment is accepted. The fight over the independence of the Polish judiciary enters the next round - and continues to fill the commentary sections.

Thousands of people once again demonstrated against the judicial reforms in Poland on the weekend. They hope President Duda will refuse to sign the new laws - as he himself announced he would do on Monday morning. Polish media are struck by the number of young people among the demonstrators but take widely differing views of the protest movement.

Despite all the warnings Poland's ruling PiS party is doggedly pursuing its controversial judicial reforms. The EU Commission has responded in kind and initiated another infringement proceeding. Some commentators see this as the right move to prevent further dismantling of democracy; for others this is inadmissible interference from abroad.