Poland to dismantle disciplinary chamber for judges after EU row

As threat of EU penalties looms, Warsaw pledges to scrap controversial chamber as part of upcoming judiciary reforms.

The Polish flag waves behind the EU flag.
Poland and Brussels have been at loggerheads for years over judicial reforms ushered in by the country's nationalist government [File: Ints Kalnins/Reuters]

The Polish government moves to dismantle a controversial disciplinary chamber for judges, after the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the disciplinary mechanism undercuts EU law.

“Poland will continue reforms of the judiciary, also in the area of judges’ answerability, aimed at improving the efficiency of this system,” the government said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that scrapping the chamber would be part of the overhaul.

The long-running dispute about Warsaw’s judicial reforms has heated up in recent months, with Brussels demanding that Poland implement an EU court ruling to dissolve the contested chamber for judges by August 16.

Poland could face financial penalties if it fails to comply with the EU ruling.

Warsaw created the Disciplinary Chamber, a body at the country’s Supreme Court with the power to discipline judges, including those of the lower courts, in 2017.

It comprises judges selected by the National Council of the Judiciary, whose members are chosen by the parliament, where the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party holds a majority.

Many Polish judges have feared the chamber was a tool to pressure them to issue rulings that favoured the authorities.

Poland’s nationalist government has previously defended it, as well as wider moves to reshape the judiciary, saying they are seeking to reform an inefficient and corrupt system.

Critics, however, have viewed that as a pretext for the government seizing control of the courts.

Though Poland indicated its intention to dismantle the chamber in the future, the government said in its response to the European Commission on Monday that it would submit a motion to revoke Court of Justice interim measures that could lead to financial penalties if it fails to suspend chamber operations in the meantime.

The leader of the PiS party this month said that Poland would dissolve the chamber and put forward plans for an alternative disciplinary system in September.

The European Commission said it had received Poland’s response and will now analyse it.

“We are looking into the reply before deciding about possible further steps,” a Commission spokesperson told a daily news conference.

Poland and the EU have been at loggerheads for years over judicial reforms and the bloc has promised to take strong action against what it sees as a flouting of democratic norms.

Warsaw has previously argued it should be allowed to adopt the judicial reforms it wants and has accused Brussels of a high-handed approach that could split the EU.

Source: News Agencies