Monday

25th Sep 2017

EU steps up infringement case against Poland

  • EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans (l) and Polish PM Beata Szydlo (r). The EU executive is asking Poland to modify its judicial reforms. (Photo: Polish Prime Minister's Office)

The European Commission has taken a new step in its action against Poland over the rule of law in the country.

On Tuesday (12 September), the EU executive decided to send a so-called reasoned opinion to the Polish government.

This is the second step in an infringement procedure that the commission launched in July over a reform of the judiciary.

The commission said that the law, which was introduced in July, is discriminatory because it sets different retirement ages for men and women - respectively 65 and 60. It said the measure was contrary to the EU treaty and a directive on gender equality in employment.

It also said it was concerned by a provision that gives the Polish justice minister the power to extend the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, and to dismiss and appoint court presidents.

Poland's government answered the commission at the end of August, but its reply hasn't been considered satisfactory.

If the Polish government fails to address the commission's renewed concerns within a month, the commission will have the right to bring the case to the EU Court of Justice.

The reform in question was part of a set of laws that put the Polish justice system under the control of the government.

The new legislation led the commission to send recommendations to the Polish government as part of a rule of law procedure launched in January 2016.

The infringement procedure on gender discrimination and on how the minister can prolong or dismiss judges, however, is distinct from the rule of law procedure.

At the end of August, the Polish government said that the commission's remarks over the judiciary reforms were "groundless".

But the commission is still considering whether to trigger Article 7, a sanction procedure that could lead to the suspension of Poland's voting rights in the Council of the EU, where national ministers meet.

The situation in Poland will be discussed by EU ministers on 25 September.

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