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28th May 2022

Unrepentant Poland to comply with EU court order

  • Poland's ruling party chairman Jarosław Kaczyński (Photo: pis.org.pl)

Poland has said it will disband a judicial disciplinary chamber to comply with an EU court order, while vowing to continue its controversial judicial reforms.

It laid out its position in a press release published on Tuesday (17 August) and in a formal letter to the European Commission sent on Monday.

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The commission was "informed about plans to liquidate the disciplinary chamber in its current form, in the framework of the next step of judicial reforms, which will take place in the coming months," its press release said.

The EU's top court had ruled in July that the disciplinary body lacked political independence and threatened to impose fines unless its work was halted.

But the injunction was just part of wider EU complaints about the Polish government's concerted effort, over the past six years, to seize political control of courts and judges.

And the judicial reforms were themselves part of an even wider dispute between Poland's nationalist-conservative rulers and EU institutions, covering also the Polish government's assaults on free press and on EU values, such as respect for women's rights and its LGBTI minority, as well as its frequent eurosceptic tirades.

For its part, the commission, on Tuesday, said only that it was analysing Poland's formal letter.

"We are looking into the reply before deciding about possible further steps," a spokesman said.

But the Polish press release gave little hope of a real change in the Polish government's attitude toward the EU.

It said it would anyway submit a motion to overturn the EU court's injunction and financial penalties threat.

It vowed to "continue reforms in the judicial arena, also relating to judges' accountability, the aim of which is to improve the effectiveness of the system", indicating that the illicit disciplinary chamber will be replaced by another, but similar organ in future.

And it "underlined" that "the constitution of the Polish republic ... is the highest law in Poland" in an attack on the primacy of EU law as enshrined in the EU treaties.

Meanwhile, the disciplinary chamber is still due to hear cases of alleged violations in the coming days, creating added uncertainty on Poland's intentions.

The Polish constitutional court is also due to rule on 31 August whether EU or Polish law has primacy, in a verdict that could aggravate the legal dispute.

Tuesday's press release echoed Poland's ruling party chairman, Jarosław Kaczyński, who told press last week he would "abolish" the disciplinary chamber "as it currently stands", but also "speed up" reforms after the summer recess.

Kaczyński said his gesture was a "test" of the EU's "goodwill", in a sign of Poland's expectations that the move would see the commission make concessions in return.

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