Brussels gives Poland 3 weeks to improve judges independence

Poland should improve the independence of the judges disciplinary chamber within three weeks. If Poland does nothing, the Commission goes to court to impose fines on the country. That 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. In several courts and lower courts, new judges have been appointed to support the PiS Government Party. The Commission considers that the independence and impartiality of the Disciplinary Chamber is at stake.

The European Court of Justice ruled last week that the Disciplinary Chamber as it currently operates violates European law. So Poland has now been given three weeks to do something about it.

Commissioner Vera Jourova (Transparency and Values) stresses that European legislation is binding. โ€œWe dont live in a Europa ร  la carte. European laws are above national laws.โ€ It also seems to refer to a ruling by the Polish Constitutional Court. That ruled last week that the European Court has nothing to say on internal affairs and that the Polish Disciplinary Chamber can continue to do its job.

Rule of Law Report

The European Commission once again gave Hungary and Poland a tap on their fingers. The position of independent judges, among others, has deteriorated again in those countries this year. The Commission concludes this in a report on the rule of law in all European Member States.

Each year, the Commission looks at press freedom, anti-corruption and the independence of justice in European countries. It has been compared to a rule of law APK. Although the Commission does see improvement in general, this does not apply to Hungary and Poland. It has been bothering the EU for years that the two countries are weakening their rule of law.

Corruption

The situation in Hungary is not much better. For example, Hungary would do too little to combat high-level corruption. The freedom of the press is also compromised. This still makes independent media and journalists difficult and, according to the Commission, there is intimidation.

Other countries that were previously under attack for corruption or restriction of press freedom, such as Bulgaria and Slovenia, are also criticised. For example, the Commission is concerned about the Slovenian news agency STA whose subsidy was suddenly stopped this year.

The criticism in the report does not have a direct impact on the countries. However, the conclusions from the report can ultimately be used by the Commission to demand financial penalties. In addition, since last January, the Commission can end subsidies if countries do not respect their rule of law.