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EU asks court to impose daily fines on Poland over judicial independence

Published: Updated:

The European Commission on Tuesday asked the European Court of Justice to impose daily fines on Poland until it complies with an order to suspend reforms Brussels sees as damaging judicial independence.

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“Justice systems across the European Union must be independent and fair,” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement announcing the commission’s decision to pursue enforcement action.

In July, the bloc’s top court ordered Poland -- as an interim measure -- to suspend its new disciplinary procedures for judges, including a tribunal to oversee their work.

Poland’s conservative government, which is also in dispute with Brussels over a number of other rule of law issues, replied to the European Commission in a letter on August 20, promising to act.

But on Tuesday, EU officials said that thus far the controversial disciplinary procedures, which they see as applying political pressure on the judiciary, have continued.

“Recent European Court of Justice rulings regarding the independence of Polish judges have not been fully implemented in Poland,” EU vice president Vera Jourova said.

“For instance, the Disciplinary Chamber is continuing some of its activities against judges, even though all those activities were supposed to be fully suspended.”

And justice commissioner Didier Reynders added: “It is essential that Poland fully complies with these rulings. That is why the commission, as guardian of the treaties, is taking action today.”

An EU spokesman said that the European Commission had not specified the level of the fines that it was requesting, which would be for the court to decide.

Poland’s increasingly Eurosceptic government has been accused of trying to stuff the judiciary with supporters of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s Law and Justice Party (PiS).

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