by Mariarita Cupersito –
The Court of Justice of the European Union has rejected the justice reform approved in Poland in December 2019 as it undermines the right of access to an independent and impartial judicial system.
“The value of the rule of law is part of the very identity of the Union as a common legal system”, reads the sentence, “and takes concrete form in principles which entail legally binding obligations for the Member States. The measures taken are incompatible with guarantees of access to an independent and impartial tribunal”.
The disputed legislation changed the relations between the country’s courts, preventing the judges from reviewing the legitimacy of their respective appointments or from questioning their mutual impartiality; the disciplinary chamber was also introduced in the Supreme Court, a special body aimed at sanctioning judges on the basis of the sentences issued and which could therefore largely condition their decisions. Possible sanctions included temporary suspension of duties, reduction of salary and waiver of immunity in order to initiate criminal proceedings.
Warsaw’s reaction was not long in coming: “It’s a corrupt verdict,” said Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. “It was not written by judges but by politicians, therefore it constitutes a clear violation of the European treaties”.
European Justice Commissioner Dydier Reynders is satisfied: “This law violates the cardinal principles of the European legal order. We expect Poland to fully comply with the ruling”.
Meanwhile, the EU Commission has launched a new infringement procedure against Warsaw regarding the recent law which provides for a special body, external to the judicial system, with the task of proving Russia’s influence in Polish internal politics. Voted in May and signed last week by President Andrzej Duda, the law was accused by Brussels of violating the Polish constitution and could be used against the opposition, in particular preventing the run-up to next autumn’s elections of Donald Tusk, the main opponent of Pis and signatory, when he was prime minister, of an agreement on Russian gas. In fact, under the new law, if a political exponent is accused of suspicious relations with Russia, he can be sanctioned with up to 10 years’ exclusion from public office.
The opposition took to the streets in Warsaw in recent days with a large demonstration to boycott the new law.