Hope after ECJ ruling on Polish judicial reform?
Part of the judicial reform in Poland violates EU law, the ECJ has ruled after the EU Commission filed a complaint against the country. The forced retirement of judges, which Warsaw had already revoked, is illegal according to the ECJ's ruling. The court is still examining other parts of the judicial reform but commentators find this first decision reassuring.
Judges expose dismantling of the rule of law
The Süddeutsche Zeitung is full of praise for the ECJ's work:
“As the crisis in Poland ran its course, the court used the EU treaties to give the Union a role as legal watchdog which no one had hitherto discovered in the agreements. ... Of course, a high court can't simply order a country to reinstate the rule of law, because the decisive factor is and remains Polish civil society. Nevertheless the ECJ's task is to sharpen the contours of the rule of law. Because the process of erosion in Eastern Europe has clearly shown one thing: populists and autocrats will do everything in their power to make their purported judicial 'reforms' look legal. They whitewash their weakening of the courts to try to pass it off as legitimate. It's the job of the EU judges to wash away this false sheen.”
EU finally baring its teeth
The case of Poland should encourage the EU leadership to force member countries to abide by the rule of law, the Financial Times comments:
“The effectiveness of the ECJ remedies stands in sharp contrast to the pusillanimity of national governments when dealing with errant members. The EU needs more effective disciplinary procedures for systemic threats to democracy. Tying EU funding to respect for the rule of law is the way to go. These ECJ rulings should embolden EU leaders to take the necessary steps.”
A new stance on the rule of law
The rule of law is now among the EU's uppermost concerns, Rzeczpospolita observes:
“This case also has a political dimension. Finland, which will take over the EU Council presidency on July 1, has announced that the rule of law will be given priority during its tenure. Among other things it wants to promote a mechanism for linking payments from the new EU budget to respect for the rule of law. In the EU Council, however, the countries that describe Poland as a country which breaks with the principles of the rule of law are still a minority.”