Belarus-Poland: EU has ‘shot itself in foot’ says commentator
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The EU’s top court ruled on Tuesday that Polish rules allowing the justice minister to assign judges to higher criminal courts or to remove them without stating reasons violated EU law.
The case arose after a Polish court asked whether the Polish government’s ability effectively to second one of three judges to a panel ruling on criminal cases or to terminate a secondment infringed the requirement for judicial independence.
The Polish court said the secondments and terminations were not based on predefined legal criteria and the latter did not have to be accompanied by a statement of reasons.
The ECJ said that rules related to secondments must provide necessary guarantees to prevent a risk of them being used as means of exerting political control over judicial decisions.
Poland’s nationalist government is involved in a series of disputes with the EU regarding issues such as the rule of law and judicial reforms that critics say undermine the independence of the judiciary.
In October, the ECJ ruled Poland must pay 1million euros a day in fines for maintaining a disputed disciplinary chamber for judges.
“In the ruling issued today, the Vice-President of the Tribunal obliged Poland to pay…a penalty payment of €1 million per day, counting from the date on which this ruling was delivered to Poland,” the Court of Justice statement read.
The row heated up in July when the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered the country to suspend the disciplinary chamber.
Poland has said it will abolish the chamber as part of broader reforms but has not yet presented detailed plans.
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Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said the demand was “usurpation and blackmail” in comments posted on Twitter.
Warsaw’s already fraught relations with Brussels were plunged into crisis on October 7 when the country’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that parts of European Union treaties were incompatible with its constitution.
Poland was already at risk of losing billions in EU funds for failing to comply with demands to roll back the judicial reforms that Brussels says undermine the independence of the country’s courts.
At a press conference in Brussels after a European Council summit where Poland’s adherence to rule of law was discussed, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that his country has no problem with the rule of law.
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He added that the European Union has large competencies but these were not boundless and that the bloc could only function within those assigned competencies.
Poland argues that the European Union is overstepping its mandate and, in a Financial Times interview published last month, the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party’s (PiS) Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, accused the European Commission of holding a “gun to our head”.
The Polish leader warned the EU Commission was at risk of starting a third world war by making demands on the rule of law.
He added: “What is going to happen if the European Commission will start the third world war?
“If they start the third world war, we are going to defend our rights with any weapons which are at our disposal.”
Brussels is currently withholding recovery funds against Poland until the dispute is resolved.
But the Polish leader said: “We will get this money sooner or later.
“The later we get it, the stronger the proof that there is this discrimination treatment and diktat type of approach from the European Commission.”
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