Commission sends Reasoned Opinion to Poland on the independence of the judiciary

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details IP/17/3186 (12.09.17)
Publication Date 12/09/2017
Content Type

Background and further information:

The European Commission maintains its position that the Polish Law is incompatible with EU law because by introducing a different retirement age for female judges (60 years) and male judges (65 years), it discriminates against individuals on the basis of gender. The Commission also raises legal concerns that by giving the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, as well as to dismiss and appoint Court Presidents, the independence of Polish courts is undermined.

The Commission therefore decided to move to the second stage of infringement procedure by sending a Reasoned Opinion (RO). The Polish authorities were given one month to take measures to comply with this RO, otherwise the Commission could decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The systemic threat over the rule of law in Poland was first identified formally by the European Commission in January 2016. An investigation was then launched into Poland's first set of measures on the judicial system and engaged in a dialogue with the country's authorities in the framework of a Rule of Law procedure.

The Commission published an Opinion on 1 June 2016 and was met with criticism by the Polish government. Following up on this document, a Recommendation was published on 27 July 2016, reflecting some changes to the judicial reform proposed by the Polish government to address the issues raised but pointing out these had not been enough.

In December 2016, the Commission discussed the state of play of the procedure concerning the Rule of Law in Poland and decided to issue a complementary Rule of Law Recommendation. In February 2017, the country's foreign minister considered the issue to be a 'closed case', without addressing the indications from the Commission.

The government later decided to put forward a further set of four legislative measures reforming the judiciary as a whole - proposals on the National School of Judiciary, on the National Council for the Judiciary, on the Ordinary Courts Organisation and on the Supreme Court.

The European Commission decided on 12 September 2017 to send a Reasoned Opinion to Poland regarding the Polish law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation, following the analysis conducted of the response of the Polish authorities to the Letter of Formal Notice sent in July 2017.

The European Commission updated EU foreign ministers ministers on the state of play as regards its dialogue with Poland on the rule of law at the General Affairs Council, Brussels, 25 September 2017.

Separately, Polish President Andrzej Duda proposed changes on the 25 September 2017 to the country’s constitution amid the row over sweeping legal reforms that had caused protests at home and warnings from the European Commission. He presented his own versions of the two draft bills that he had refused to sign into law in July 2017.

European Commissioner Timmermans said he would 'carefully examine' the Polish President's proposals.

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Related Links
Politico, 12.09.17: Brussels advances infringement case against Poland
EUObserver, 12.09.17: EU steps up infringement case against Poland
Radio Poland, 12.09.17: EU steps up proceedings against Poland over legal overhaul,EU-steps-up-proceedings-against-Poland-over-legal-overhaul
EUObserver, 25.09.17: Article 7 not mentioned in Poland probe update
Politico, 25.09.17: [Opinion]: Time for Brussels to ‘go nuclear’ on Warsaw
Blog: Verfassungsblog, 16.10.17: The Polish Crisis as a European Crisis: A Letter to Mr Jean-Claude Juncker
EurActiv, 25.09.17: Polish rule of law dispute comes to a head
EurActiv, 26.09.17: Commission, Poland seek new dialogue on troublesome judicial reform

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