The European Commission on Wednesday launched infringement proceedings against Poland by sending a Letter of Formal Notice regarding its new disciplinary regime for judges.
The notice alleges that the new regime “undermines the judicial independence of Polish judges by not offering necessary guarantees to protect them from political control, as required by the Court of Justice of the European Union.” Poland has two months to reply.
The Commission alleges that Poland has failed to meet its obligations under Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which preserve the right to “an effective remedy before an independent and impartial court.” The Commission alleges that Polish law “allows to subject ordinary court judges to disciplinary investigations, procedures and ultimately sanctions, on account of the content of their judicial decisions.”
In addition, the Commission alleges that Poland’s regime does not ensure that a court can decide in first instance on disciplinary proceedings against ordinary court judges, because it gives the power to the President of the Disciplinary Chamber to determine the disciplinary court of first instance to hear a given case, “on an ad-hoc basis and with an almost unfettered discretion.”
The Commission is also of the opinion that Poland has failed to fulfill its obligations under Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which ensures courts’ right to request preliminary rulings from the European Court of Justice.
The EU’s concern about Poland not adhering to EU’s principles on rule of law is increasing. Last December the European Court of Justice ruled that Poland must “immediately” suspend the national legislation which lowered the mandatory retirement age for its supreme court judges.