MEPs welcome Commission’s decision to refer Poland to Court of Justice

The Commission said it will launch an infringement procedure against Poland over the “muzzle law”, which allows the government to penalise Polish judges for their rulings.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

01 Apr 2021

In a statement on Wednesday, the Commission said the law in question undermines “the judicial independence of Polish judges” and is “incompatible with the primacy of EU law.”

It added, “The law prevents Polish courts, including by using disciplinary proceedings, from directly applying certain provisions of EU law protecting judicial independence, and from putting references for preliminary rulings on such questions to the Court of Justice.”

MEPs had previously demanded that the Commission take action against the Polish government for its “numerous attempts” to undermine the rule of law.

Reacting to the news, German Greens/EFA deputy Terry Reintke, shadow rapporteur for Poland in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said, “We welcome that finally the Commission is taking action on the independence of the judiciary in Poland. But this referral to the Court of Justice is long overdue and isn't enough to repair the damage done to democracy and the rule of law by the Polish government.”

“The law the Commission has referred to the Court is just one of a barrage of bills designed to systematically strip the judiciary of any independence. Attacking the judiciary is contrary to European values as set out in the Treaties.”

She added, “The Commission needs to clearly set out what it intends to do, in order to deal with how the PiS government has stuffed the Courts, brought the ‘Constitutional Tribunal’ to heel and fired judges who are disloyal to the party.”

“There's no time to wait around and refer the odd case to the Court - the Commission must be proactive and vigilant in defending the rule of law.”

“The Polish government knows it is acting against our fundamental laws, our treaties, but it continues to do so. The infringement procedure announced by the European Commission against the ‘muzzle law’ is therefore necessary” Dacian Cioloş, Renew Europe leader

Further comment came from fellow Greens/EFA member Sylwia Spurek, vice-chair of the Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee, who said, “The Commission's move to refer the Polish government to the Court of Justice for its attacks on the independency of the judiciary must be the start of a more effective approach against the PiS government's attacks on democracy.”

“Judicial reforms are the tip of the iceberg of what the government has done to weaken the rule of law in Poland. The Commission must show that it is serious about protecting European values and take action against the government for so-called 'LGBTIQ-freedom zones', for the assault on women's rights, the shrinking space for civil society and media freedom in the country.”

“Polish citizens are European citizens; their rights must be guaranteed against the government’s attempts to restrict them.”

Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloş said, “The Polish government’s repeated attacks on the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are unacceptable. Despite several rulings by the European Court of Justice and the Polish Supreme Court, the ‘Disciplinary Chamber’ of the Supreme Court continues to threaten the independence of Polish judges.”

“The Polish government knows it is acting against our fundamental laws, our treaties, but it continues to do so. The infringement procedure announced by the European Commission against the ‘muzzle law’ is therefore necessary.”

“Renew Europe will continue to defend the rule of law in Poland and throughout our Union. Breaking our laws is not acceptable, not now, not in the future, never.”

He said, “Our hand must not tremble when it comes to defending the fundamental pillars of the European Union. There was an urgent need to act. The European Commission is the guardian of the Treaties, we count on it to remain extremely vigilant and to act accordingly. We expect the same when it comes to the new Rule of Law Conditionality Mechanism.”

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