EU dispute over judicial reform: where is the escalation with Poland going?

To analyse

As of: 10/28/2021 02:22 a.m.

The ECJ has imposed a record fine on Poland. Because of its controversial judicial reform, the country is expected to pay a fine of one million euros per day. It is a new level of escalation in the dispute with the EU. But where is it all going?

By Helga Schmidt, ARD-Studio Brussels

For years the European Court of Justice has tried to prevent the rule of law from being dismantled in Poland. The Luxembourg judges have seldom pronounced such a harsh judgment. One million euros fine for every day as long as the Polish government does not abolish the controversial disciplinary court.

Helga Schmidt
ARD studio Brussels

“It will be very hard for the people, for us who pay taxes. But that is the only option for the Commission,” says the Polish opposition politician Róza Thun. She is a MEP and supports the tough line against the government in Warsaw. “Otherwise it is very dangerous for the whole European Union. The European Union will disintegrate if the decisions of the ECJ are not respected.”

The European Court of Justice imposes a daily fine of millions on Poland

Michael Grytz, ARD Brussels, daily topics 9:35 p.m., October 27, 2021

The principle of judicial independence challenged

As early as July, the European court ruled that the Polish disciplinary body violated EU law: it was incompatible with the principle of judicial independence.

Critics speak of political pressure on the courts. Judges can be given early retirement if they pass unpopular judgments, and public prosecutors can also be dismissed for political reasons. Because the government did not implement the ECJ ruling, the fine has now followed.

Different reactions in Poland

The implementation was necessary in order to avert “serious and irreparable damage” to the legal order of the EU, said the Vice-President of the Court of Justice. The daily fine of one million euros is received differently in Poland, says MEP Róza Thun, and Polish society is deeply divided.

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

Tagesschau 2 p.m., October 27, 2021

She still sees half of them behind the right-wing national government of Prime Minister Morawiecki, which is fueling anger against Brussels. But the other half, the opposition, have great hopes that the EU will prevent the dismantling of the rule of law in their country.

The other half will say that it is the European Union that guarantees the independence of our courts and will say: thank God someone does that. That is for Poland and not against Poland.

Morawiecki speaks of “third world war”

The Polish government has been ignoring judgments of the European Court of Justice for years. The disregard of the Polish constitution, it was angrily yesterday from Warsaw. Prime Minister Morawiecki even spoke of a “third world war” at the weekend, and Poland would defend itself by all means. The signs point to escalation, the agitators determine the course.

That is why the MEP and rule of law expert Daniel Freund does not expect the Polish government to accept the new fines.

Poland is not paying the previous fines, which have been imposed for months. The European Commission can easily deduct these penalties from the transfers to Poland. And that is exactly what the Commission should do now.

Heads of state and government are calling for financial consequences

Such cuts would be possible in the case of regular transfers from the Community budget, for example from the Structural Funds. Like the Green politician, several heads of state and government called for financial consequences for Poland at the EU summit last week.

The opinion of Gigi Deppe, SWR, on the penalties for Poland

Topics of the day 9:35 p.m., 10/27/2021

“You can’t be a member of the club and not follow the rules that apply to every country,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, while others went in the same direction. There was a lot of backing for the Commission’s restrictive line, including when allocating the funds from the 750 billion build-up plan to counter the damage caused by the pandemic. The Commission should not allow itself to be dissuaded, demands Daniel Freund.

The EU Commission must use the effective tools. First of all, it must be ensured that the Corona aid is not paid out to Poles as long as we do not have a judicial reform.

So far, the EU Commission has withheld Corona aid for Poland. Around 36 billion euros are actually earmarked for the country, so far no money has flowed.

Poland has to pay a fine of one million euros every day

Klaus Hempel, SWR, 27.10.2021 · 18:10

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