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Poland accuses EU of 'blackmail' in clash over judges

28.10.2021 06:30
The Polish government spokesman has accused Brussels of "blackmail" after the EU’s top court imposed a EUR 1 million daily fine on Warsaw for maintaining a disciplinary chamber for judges, a key pillar of its disputed legal reforms.
Piotr Mller
Piotr MüllerPAP/Mateusz Marek

Piotr Müller took to Twitter after the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the EU on Wednesday ordered Poland to pay the hefty fine, adding to pressure on Warsaw over the rule of law.

"The European Union is a community of sovereign states that is governed by clear rules," Müller said in a tweet.

"These rules provide for a clear division of powers between the EU and the member states," he added.

"The issue of regulating the organization of the judiciary is the exclusive competence of the member states," Müller also tweeted.

Müller also said that "the Polish government publicly spoke of the need to introduce changes in this area to ensure its effective functioning."

He wrote: "The path of punishments and blackmail towards our country is not the right way. This is not a model in which the European Union should function – a union of sovereign states.”

The Court of Justice of the EU said in a statement on Wednesday: "As it has not suspended the application of the provisions of national legislation relating, in particular, to the areas of jurisdiction of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, Poland is ordered to pay the European Commission a daily penalty payment in an amount of EUR 1,000,000."

It added that "compliance with the interim measures ordered on 14 July 2021 is necessary in order to avoid serious and irreparable harm to the legal order of the European Union and to the values on which that Union is founded, in particular that of the rule of law."

ECJ vice-president Lars Bay Larsen issued the order on Wednesday pending a final ruling from the court on the Polish disciplinary chamber.

Polish Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said on Twitter that the EU court's order “completely disregards and ignores Poland's constitution and the judgments of its Constitutional Tribunal."

The EU court ruled in July that Poland's system for disciplining judges undercut the bloc's laws. It also said that the new disciplinary chamber set up at Poland's Supreme Court "does not provide all the guarantees of impartiality and independence, and, in particular, is not protected from the direct or indirect influence of the Polish legislature and executive."

The ECJ had previously told Poland to immediately stop all proceedings at the disciplinary chamber, set up by the country's ruling conservatives as part of a sweeping overhaul of the national justice system.

In a recent interview with the Financial TimesPoland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki promised to dismantle the disputed disciplinary chamber by the end of the year.

Morawiecki told reporters last week that his country had no problem with the rule of law, but some European Union countries did not understand its judicial policies.

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said last month that the European Commission's decision to seek fines against his country over its system for disciplining judges was “a form of aggression” and "legal hybrid war."

Ziobro was speaking after the executive arm of the European Union said on September 7 it had asked the EU's top court to impose financial penalties on Poland over the activities of a judges' disciplinary chamber, stepping up its pressure on Warsaw over the rule of law.

That move by the EU executive came after Brussels in July threatened to fine Warsaw for disregarding a ruling by the top EU court that key judicial changes in Poland are incompatible with EU law.


Source: PAP, curia.europa.eu

Click on the "Play" button above for an audio report by Radio Poland’s Michał Owczarek.