BRUSSELS – The European Union is referring Poland to Europe's top court over long-standing concerns about respect for the rule of law and the independence of the country's Supreme Court judges, EU officials said Wednesday.
The bloc's executive commission said it will ask the European Court of Justice to order interim measures until a final judgment is given in the case “to prevent the aggravation of serious and irreparable harm inflicted to judicial independence and the EU legal order.”
The European Commission had previously warned Poland that it might go to the European Court of Justice if the government did not take action to fix the problems with the Polish law on judicial power.
“It's a crucial step in the infraction procedure," EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said of the court referral.
The EU commission’s case is part of a long-running dispute between Brussels and the nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary over democratic standards and the rule of law in the 27-nation bloc.
The commission considers Poland in violation of EU law for allowing the country's Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to make decisions which have a direct impact on judges and the way they do their jobs, undermining judicial independence.
“These matters include cases of the lifting of immunity of judges with a view to bringing criminal proceedings against them or detain them, and the consequent temporary suspension from office and the reduction of their salary," the European Commission said. “The mere prospect for judges of having to face proceedings before a body whose independence is not guaranteed creates a ‘chilling effect’ for judges."
In Warsaw, government spokesman Piotr Mueller questioned the EU’s authority in the matter.