The European Commission announced Wednesday that it was referring the Republic of Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over the adoption of laws that allegedly undermine the independence of judges. The Commission further requested that the ECJ order interim measures seeking the suspension of some provisions of the law until a final judgment is reached.
This move comes as a result of the Polish government’s adoption of the Law on the Judiciary of 20 December 2019, which is considered to be contrary to EU law. More specifically, the EU Commission believes the law undermines the independence of Polish judges and is incompatible with the primacy of EU law because it prevents Polish courts, under the threat of disciplinary proceedings, from directly applying certain provisions of EU law protecting judicial independence as well as from further referring such matters for preliminary rulings to the ECJ.
In a communique, the EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said:
Since it was not possible to resolve our concerns on the law on the judiciary with the Polish authorities, the Commission decided to seize the European Court of Justice on this matter. More broadly speaking, the Commission continues to monitor the situation of the rule of law in all Member States, including in Poland.
We are doing so via the rule of law mechanism, with the Commission’s annual rule of law report at its centre. It is a means for Member States to engage with each other and with the Commission, to create a rule of law culture, to prevent rule of law issues from arising or deepening, and to resolve those that exist.
The referral of the EU Commission is just one of several measures that have been taken against Poland in relation to the independence of its judiciary. The Commission has previously launched several proceedings on former versions of the Polish laws relating to its judiciary, which were consequently deemed contrary to EU law by the ECJ.