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MEDEL statement on the decision of the European Commission about Poland

MEDEL

MEDEL welcomes the decision of the European Commission announced on January 14th, 2020, requesting the European Court of Justice to apply Interim Measures in the infringement procedure regarding the disciplinary regime for Polish judges. 

The situation in Poland significantly deteriorated over the last months, with new laws intended to further weaken judicial independence and to effectively forbid the implementation of ECJ rulings in Poland.

The ECJ verdict delivered on 24 June 2019  (C-619/18) states that the Member States are required to comply with their obligations under EU law (…) the Member States must put in place remedies sufficient to ensure effective legal protection, within the meaning of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Subsequently, in the “Rule of Law” series verdict of the ECJ from November 19th, 2019 (C-585/18, C-624/18, C-625/18), a number of factors were indicated, which considered collectively lead to conclude that several important bodies of the Polish judiciary are in non-compliance with the Rule of Law, having given the Supreme Court the opportunity to analyze them and decide on their status.

The response of the Polish government to this verdict was a proposal of law further curbing judges, with provisions introducing judicial disciplinary responsibility for implementing the ECJ verdict from 19 November 2019 and, inter alia, enabling the hostile takeover of the Supreme Court by the executive. The Polish government ignored the requests of European Commission, OSCE and ENCJ to cease the further dismantling of the Rule of Law and ignored the special delegation sent by the Venice Commission.

Moreover, several judges who tried to apply directly the verdict of the European Court of Justice became victims of state-led persecution, with punishment ranging from suspension, through demotion to initiation of disciplinary proceedings with criminal charges, or suspension with the intention to dismissal from judicial post.

These decisions sparked an immediate response of the pubic and legal professions in Poland. Over 30.000 people, including thousands of judges, advocates, legal counsels and prosecutors, gathered in Warsaw on 11 January 2020 to protest against the destruction of the Rule of Law in the “Silent March”. The protest also included 55 judges from 22 European States, representing courts and national and international associations of lawyers. The march was endorsed by most of the EU States’ lawyer’s organizations.

The Commission’s request for interim measures, disabling the disputed and obviously incompatible with Treaties and Polish Constitution, executive-controlled, Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court (being a tool for intimidating judges), is a good step towards restoring the Rule of Law in Poland and thus preserving the European legal order.

Given the speed and determination of the Polish government in further takeover of judiciary, MEDEL believes that a request for expedited proceedings in this case would enable a more effective response to further actions of this type in Poland.

January 15th, 2020

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