Top Polish court ruling goes against EU laws | News | DW
Poland continued its opposition to the EU on Wednesday with a decision by its Constitutional Court declaring the temporary injunctions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) incompatible with the Polish constitution.
The move is seen by legal observers as a step towards weakening the power of EU laws in the country.
What was the decision about?
The General Court ruled that a temporary injunction from the ECJ calling on Warsaw to suspend a panel it had created to discipline judges was in conflict with the Polish constitution and therefore non-binding.
Judge Stanislaw Piotrowicz said the court’s majority verdict was that EU measures on the “system, principles and procedures” of Polish courts were “not in accordance” with the constitution.
The jury oversees the nomination of the best jurists. It also has the power to lift their immunity, allowing judges to face criminal prosecution or pay cuts.
Shortly before the decision, the deputy head of the ECJ called on Poland to immediately stop all panel activities.
The decision comes against the backdrop of a larger feud between the EU and Poland over the rule of law.
Wednesday’s ruling could be an indication of how the General Court’s judges will soon rule on another outstanding issue: whether EU law takes precedence over Poland’s constitution.
This decision was postponed until Thursday after hours of deliberations on Tuesday.
Fears of a Polish exit
The move will heighten fears within the bloc that Poland is moving away not only from EU rule of law standards, but even from the bloc itself.
“The refusal to apply the judgments of the European Court of Justice in Poland is a clear step towards Poland’s exit from the European Union,” said Jeroen Lenaers, Dutch center-right member of the European Parliament.
“We are concerned that the Polish government is on the path to Polexit,” Lenaers said, using the somewhat heavy contortion of the “Brexit” nickname that has become a cannon.
Opinion polls show, however, that most Poles strongly support EU membership. Poland joined the bloc in 2004.
Why do the EU and Poland disagree on the rule of law?
Poland’s right-wing nationalist party Law and Justice (PiS) has carried out a number of court reforms in the country – changes according to the EU give the country’s justice minister too much power over judges.
The reforms, which entered into force in February last year, also prevent judges from submitting questions of law to the ECJ and created a body that decides on the independence of judges without reference to EU law.
The EU says the changes undermine the independence of the judiciary, among other things by allowing the government to force some judges to step down or promote others for political reasons.
The PiS says its reforms are aimed solely at making the judiciary more efficient and removing all vestiges of the country’s communist past.
tj / msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)