EU’s top court deals blow to Warsaw
The EU’s top court has sided with earlier criticism from Brussels of controversial judicial reform enacted in Poland in 2019, ruling on Monday that Warsaw had breached the bloc’s laws with the measures.
The ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is the latest blow dealt by the EU to the conservative government of the Law and Justice Party (PiS). The EU judges reiterated a previous ruling on a now-defunct Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, and also ruled on several restrictions and transparency demands that the reform had introduced in December 2019 for Polish judges.
The SJEU had ruled in 2021 that the Disciplinary Chamber was in breach of EU law and ordered its dissolution, which Poland implemented the following year.
The European Commission had earlier sued Poland over the reform, which it argued had compromised the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro blasted the verdict, claiming on Monday that it was “not written by judges but politicians” in the EU and claimed that the court that issued it was “corrupt.”
The ruling also criticized the restrictions imposed on the authority of Polish courts to decide whether domestic policies complied with EU laws. Concentrating this authority in the hands of a single body under the reform was monopolistic and undermined “the fundamental right to effective judicial protection enshrined in EU law,” the court said in a statement.
EU judges also took issue with the demand that Polish Supreme Court judges disclose their official and private political affiliations. The measure was touted by Warsaw as a way to strengthen the impartiality of the judiciary, but the CJEU said it violated the justices’ privacy and exposed them to “stigmatization.”
The ruling is final and, among other things, puts a cap on the accumulating fine that was imposed on Poland in October 2021 over the reform. The daily penalty initially amounted to €1 million ($1.07 million), but was reduced by half in April. It currently totals about €550 million ($588 million), which the CJEU stressed Warsaw must pay.
The ruling comes after a mass protest over the weekend by the Polish opposition, led by former Prime Minister Donald Tusk. A former President of the European Council, he is a staunch supporter of the bloc and currently represents Poland as an MEP. Tusk claimed that some 500,000 attended the rally.