Implementation of new retirement age regime for Polish Supreme Court and infringement procedure launched by the European Commission

Author (Person)
Series Details July 2018
Publication Date 02/07/2018
Content Type ,


The European Commission started on 2 July 2018 an infringement procedure against Poland over the implementation of a new retirement regime for Supreme Court judges, by sending a Letter of Formal Notice.

The retirement age regime came into force on the next day. The First President of the Supreme Court - which would be affected by the new law - turned up for work in defiance of the law. At the same time, protests against the reform gathered momentum on the streets.

Further information:

+ White Paper on the Reform of the Polish Judiciary, March 2018

The Polish law on the Supreme Court lowers the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 and 65. According to the law, existing judges are given the possibility to declare their will to have their mandate prolonged by the President of the Republic, which can be granted for a period of three years and renewed once. There are no criteria established for the President's decision and there is no possibility for a judicial review of this decision. The Commission is of the opinion that these measures undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges.

This law meant that in July 2018, more than one in every three judges of the Polish Supreme Court suddenly faced the risk of being forced to retire. This includes the First President of the Supreme Court, whose mandate would be prematurely terminated.

This law was subject to discussions between the European Commission and the Polish authorities in their dialogue on Rule of Law. However, the introduction of a consultation of the National Council for the Judiciary (NCJ) was considered not an effect safeguard by the EU, as argued by Poland. Given the lack of progress through the Rule of Law dialogue, the Commission decided to launch this infringement procedure. The Polish government was given one month to reply to the Letter of Formal Notice.

Related Links
European Commission: Press Release, 02.07.18: Commission launches infringement procedure to protect the independence of the Polish Supreme Court
EurActiv, 05.07.18: Polish-EU tensions flare again as new law requires judges to quit
Euronews, 04.07.18: Government reform protests gather pace in Poland
The Guardian, 04.07.18: Head of Polish supreme court defies ruling party's retirement law
Radio Poland, 03.07.18: Supreme Court head, judges, forced into early retirement
The Guardian, 02.07.18: Poland's supreme court constitutional crisis approaches a standoff
Human Rights Watch: News, 03.04.18: Poland’s Government Devastates its Supreme Court
The New York Times, 05.07.18: Polish Crisis Deepens as Judges Condemn Their Own Court
Politico, 02.07.18: Polish president to remove top Supreme Court judge
Reuters, 03.07.18: Poland faces turmoil over contested overhaul of Supreme Court
Euro|topics, July 2018: Will PiS get away with law dismissing judges?

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