Dispute with EU over judicial reform: Poland should pay one million euros – every day

Status: 27.10.2021 5:08 p.m.

If Poland does not comply with EU law, it has to pay a fine of one million euros every day, the ECJ ruled in the dispute over judicial reform. Poland sees itself being blackmailed. And the EU has another means of pressure: the money from the Corona aid fund.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is increasing the pressure on Poland in the dispute over the country’s judicial reform. He sentenced Poland to a fine of one million euros for every day that the judgments of the European Supreme Court are still not implemented.

This time it’s about the controversial disciplinary chamber that the right-wing conservative ruling party PiS set up in 2018. The chamber is at the heart of the Polish judicial reform. It can suspend judges and public prosecutors, cut their salaries, lift their immunity – and above all, dismiss them at any time. Critics fear that it could serve to reprimand judges for unpleasant decisions.

EU sees the independence of the judiciary at risk

According to the European Court of Justice, the chamber violates EU law. It is not compatible with basic principles of the rule of law. According to EU law, every EU member state must guarantee that the judiciary can work independently and non-partisanly. According to the EU judges, this is no longer ensured with the disciplinary body. Because their members are selected by the State Judicial Council – and this is an organ that “has been substantially reorganized by the Polish executive and legislative branches”, according to the ECJ. There are legitimate doubts about its independence.

In July, the European Court of Justice therefore ordered the chamber to cease its work. At first it seemed as if Poland would give in. At the beginning of August, PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced that he wanted to abolish the disciplinary body in its existing form.

For the time being, the body will no longer deal with cases and in September Poland will submit its proposals to the EU Commission on how the work of the chamber should be changed so that it is compatible with EU law.

But the work of the Disciplinary Chamber continued – and at the beginning of October the dispute between Poland and the EU reached a new level. The Polish Constitutional Court had previously ruled that EU law was partially incompatible with the constitution of one’s own country. In these cases, national law takes precedence over that of the EU. Which means that the judgments of the European Court of Justice do not take precedence over the Polish jurisprudence.

Poland sees itself “blackmailed”

In an initial statement on the current decision of the ECJ, the Polish government made it clear that it was apparently unwilling to pay the newly imposed penalty payment. Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said on Twitter that the ECJ despised and ignored the Polish Constitution and the judgments of the Constitutional Court. Kaleta spoke of “blackmail”.

The parliamentary group leader of the national-conservative ruling party PiS, Ryszard Terlecki, said when asked whether Poland would now pay daily: “We haven’t paid anything yet, so don’t panic.”

Claudia Kornmeier, SWR, on the decision of the European Court of Justice against Poland

Tagesschau 2 p.m., October 27, 2021

The EU has been issuing warnings, warnings and criticizing Poland for years because of its judicial reform. The fine now imposed is necessary to avert “serious and irreparable damage” to the legal order of the EU and its values, according to the statement from the Luxembourg court. It follows a request from the EU Commission in Brussels, which had applied for the penalty payment.

Approval for the judgment came from the ranks of the EU parliamentarians. Green European politician Franziska Brantner told the Reuters news agency: “This shows that there are consequences if someone undermines the rule of law.” The verdict is a “stop sign for those who lay the ax to democracy in Europe”.

EU could withhold money from corona funds

Brantner asked the EU Commission to only pay Poland money from the Corona Reconstruction Fund if the EU country guarantees the independence of the judiciary and the primacy of European law. It is about 36 billion euros.

The FDP member Moritz Körner also called the judgment “welcome”. He also warned that EU corona aid for Poland should be withheld for the time being.

With information from Klaus Hempel, ARD legal editor


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