Poland must overturn judicial review to get EU COVID help, commission chief says


Poland must reverse its new disciplinary system for judges in order to unlock access to billions of euros in aid from the European Union aimed at reviving economic growth, which has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, said Thursday the general manager of the block. Poland could get up to € 57 billion in EU stimulus funds, but the executive withheld its required approval for Warsaw’s detailed plan on how to spend it amid protracted feuds and over and more bitter about democratic standards.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told a press conference that Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had to cancel its new disciplinary regime for judges, widely criticized for undermining judicial independence. “We want to include in this recovery and resilience plan a clear commitment to dismantle the disciplinary chamber, to end or reform the disciplinary regime and to launch a process for the relocation of judges,” she said.

“I think it’s doable, I hope we can come to an agreement. But the reform part is a sine qua non,” she said, using the Latin term for an indispensable condition. Poland has said it will change the disciplinary regime as part of broader reforms, but has yet to come up with detailed plans.

“There will be changes in disciplinary procedures, but we will not act under the pressure or illegal blackmail which is the line of conduct created by the European Commission,” said Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta. Igor Tuleya, a Polish judge fiercely critical of government reforms who was suspended from his post, said he believed attacks on independent justice would continue.

“It cannot be ruled out that there may be cosmetic changes … They could formally abolish the disciplinary chamber but in its place create something so monstrous,” he told Reuters. EXPULSION

Separately, the European Network of Judicial Councils (ENCJ), an organization of EU bodies representing judges, voted on Thursday to exclude the Polish National Judicial Council (KRS). “The KRS does not guarantee the independence of the judiciary, it does not defend the justice …”, said the ENCJ in a statement.

Since coming to power in 2015, Polish nationalist PiS has introduced sweeping changes to the judiciary, placing judges under more government control in the EU’s largest ex-communist country and the largest eastern market in 38 millions of people. The KRS plays a key role in the Polish judicial system as it reviews all judicial appointments. As part of government reforms, its members are now mostly appointed by the PiS-dominated parliament, whereas previously they were chosen by judges.

The expulsion of KRS from the EU group could intensify calls from critics of the government for decisive action and make it easier for those who are unhappy with the decisions of judges appointed under the new rules to challenge them. However, Malgorzata Manowska, the first president of the Supreme Court, told the private broadcaster TVN 24 that the expulsion would only cause “image” problems for Poland.

In addition to wrangling over justice and rights, Poland has also clashed with most other EU countries over climate policies, becoming increasingly isolated within the 27-nation bloc. In September, the EU’s highest court – the European Court of Justice – sentenced Poland to daily fines of € 500,000 for refusing to act on its earlier decision to shut down a coal mine polluting at the Czech border.

On Wednesday, he fined Poland an additional € 1million per day for keeping the Supreme Court’s disciplinary chamber in operation after it was previously dismissed by the Luxembourg court for breach of independence judicial process, a key EU rule.

(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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