Status: 27.10.2021 3:11 p.m.
Poland has been ignoring judgments of the European Court of Justice against its own judicial reform for months. That could be expensive now: Poland is supposed to pay one million euros for every day that the ECJ ruling continues to be disregarded.
For years the EU has been issuing warnings, warnings and criticizing Poland for its controversial judicial reform. The country violates the rule of law and EU law. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) also saw it this way in its rulings – but Poland continues to ignore these decisions to this day.
Now the ECJ is drawing conclusions: It sentenced Poland to a fine of one million euros for every day on which the judgments made by the highest European court are still not implemented.
Disciplinary body at the center of the dispute
The ruling is aimed primarily at the disciplinary body set up in Poland in 2018. This body is responsible for disciplinary proceedings against judges. The chamber can lift the judges’ immunity, cut their salaries or even suspend them. The Polish ruling party stated that it wanted to use the Chamber to take action against corruption.
From the EU’s point of view, however, with this approach Poland is violating the principle of an independent judiciary and undermining the separation of powers. In 2019, the EU initiated infringement proceedings against Poland. In the following year, the ECJ ruled against the Polish body and demanded that the disciplinary body should cease its work immediately. They serve the “political control of court decisions” and the “exercise of pressure on judges”, said the judges at the ECJ.
Claudia Kornmeier, SWR, on the decision of the European Court of Justice against Poland
Tagesschau 2 p.m., October 27, 2021
Poland announced reform of the chamber
And at first it seemed as if Poland would give in. At the beginning of August, the chairman of the right-wing conservative ruling party PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, announced that he wanted to abolish the disciplinary chamber 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.
EU judicial systems must be “independent and fair”
As a result, on September 9, the EU Commission applied for financial sanctions to be imposed on Poland. “The judicial systems throughout the European Union must be independent and fair,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the time.
Arguments that were also taken up by the judges at the ECJ. Poland must implement the judgments of the EU court in order to avert “serious and irreparable damage to the legal order of the European Union and the values on which this union is based (…),” said the ECJ’s reasoning for the fine against Poland.
Government speaks of “blackmail”
The Polish government spoke of “extortion” in the face of the latest ruling. “The ECJ despises and ignores the Polish constitution and the judgments of the Constitutional Court completely,” wrote Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta on Twitter. The court is exceeding its competences. “This is a further stage in the operation, which is supposed to take away Poland’s influence on its form of government. This is usurpation and blackmail.”
However, approval came from the ranks of the EU parliamentarians. Green European politician Franziska Brantner, for example, welcomed the verdict: “This shows that there are consequences if someone undermines the rule of law,” she told Reuters. The verdict is a “stop sign for those who lay the ax to democracy in Europe”. 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.
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.