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EU threatens to fine Poland over judicial changes

21.07.2021 07:30
Brussels has threatened to fine Warsaw for disregarding a ruling by the EU’s top court that key judicial changes in Poland are incompatible with EU law, news agencies have reported.
European flags flutter outside the European Commissions headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
European flags flutter outside the European Commission's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.Photo: PAP/EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

"EU law has primacy over national law," the European Commission said on Tuesday.

The European Union's executive arm gave Poland until August 16 to comply with a ruling last week by the top EU court that Poland's system for disciplining judges broke EU law and should be suspended, Poland’s PAP news agency reported.

If Poland does not comply, the Commission will ask the EU court to impose financial sanctions on Warsaw, Commission Vice President Věra Jourová told a news conference.

"Poland needs to inform us about the measures foreseen to that effect by August 16, as requested by the court. Failing that, the Commission will request the European Court of Justice to impose a penalty payment on Poland," Jourová said on Tuesday.

''We will not hesitate to make use of our powers under the Treaties,'' the European Commission tweeted, announcing that Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders had "sent a letter to Poland, asking Poland to explain how it applies the interim measures and recent ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union to safeguard judicial independence."

The Polish justice minister has said that a ruling by the EU’s top court that a Polish system for disciplining judges contravenes the bloc's laws is "a political judgment" that "smacks of colonial thinking."

Zbigniew Ziobro told reporters the ruling had been handed down "at the behest of the European Commission," the EU's executive arm, amid a long-standing feud over alleged rule-of-law breaches between Brussels and Warsaw.

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled last Thursday that Poland's system for disciplining judges undercut the bloc's laws, adding to an escalating battle over democratic rules.

Rule-of-law report

Separately on Tuesday, the European Commission listed serious concerns about the rule of law in Poland in a report that could help decide whether they receive billions of euros in EU funds to help recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the Reuters news agency reported.

The commission had already raised many of the concerns in a report last year but they may now have real consequences as Brussels has made access to its EUR 800 billion recovery fund of grants and loans conditional on observing the rule of law, Reuters reported.

"The Commission may take into account the Rule of Law report ... when identifying and assessing breaches of the principles of the rule of law that affect the financial interests of the Union," the Commission said in a statement.


Source: PAP, IAR, Reuters