European court of justice backed criticism that changes to the court undermine its independence
The European court of justice has backed criticism that Poland’s contentious judicial appointments system undermines the independence of its judges.
In a landmark ruling on Friday, the court found that Warsaw’s changes to the court undermined its independence.
The court’s president, Sir Nicolas Bratza, said: “Poland’s actions leave the judges of the [European court of justice] virtually unable to discharge their duties with self-confidence.
“The appointments procedure, by massively transferring the authority to appoint judges and to propose a number of the judges’ lineages, is having a serious and adverse effect on the independence of the court and its work.”
An earlier UK government submission to the court had dismissed as “inaccurate” the claim that the Polish changes to the court were unconstitutional.
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The country is bitterly opposed to a decision by the European commission to launch legal proceedings against Poland for its changes to the judiciary system.
The commissioners from the EU’s executive say they are concerned that the changes represent a “breach of the rule of law” and threaten the EU’s judicial rules, while Warsaw and the country’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) argue that the changes to the constitution, justice system and legal system are legal and do not violate EU law.
A spokesperson for the Polish government said that the decision had been expected and that the judiciary reforms were in line with EU rules.
“The European court of justice’s decision illustrates once again that Poland’s judicial reforms comply with EU laws,” the spokesperson said.
“They are a democratic way to reform the judiciary and ensure efficient and effective justice. Poland has consistently stated its intention to bring our judiciary in line with European rules, and it will do so in the coming weeks and months.”
The court’s final verdict comes as the European parliament is set to consider a new proposal for joint supervision over Poland’s courts.
The European council has agreed on the concept of a “joint control mechanism” – a new approach to carrying out reforms of the justice system in the 27 member states. It is the first time the council has been willing to apply sanctions to a country, amid concerns that the PiS government is undermining the rule of law.