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article imageEU warns Poland it has a month to tackle court reform

By AFP     Sep 12, 2017 in Politics

The European Union warned Poland's right-wing government on Tuesday it had a month to tackle concerns over judicial reforms or risk being taken to court.

Brussels and Warsaw have been at loggerheads since Poland's Law and Justice Party announced measures in 2015 the EU has said pose a "systemic threat" to the rule of law.

The European Commission, the 28-nation EU's executive, sent another warning after it deemed Warsaw's response to legal action launched by Brussels in July to be inadequate.

"The Polish authorities now have one month to take the necessary measures to comply with this reasoned opinion," the commission said in a statement.

"If the Polish authorities do not take appropriate measures, the commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU," it added.

The European Court of Justice, the bloc's highest tribunal, can impose fines on Poland if it rules in favour of the EU's legal action over the overhaul of the Polish law on the ordinary courts organisation.

Tuesday's warning was the second step in the commission's action, known as an infringement procedure, launched in July.

European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans said two weeks ago that Poland had failed to announce "any concrete measures" in its reply to the commission.

- 'Nuclear option' -

The commission said the threat to judicial independence came from the Polish justice minister getting "discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age as well as to dismiss and appoint court presidents".

Other concerns, it said, include "discrimination on the basis of gender" by setting the retirement age at 60 for female judges and at 65 for their male counterparts.

Article 7 is a never-before-used EU process designed to uphold the rule of law  a so-called "nu...
Article 7 is a never-before-used EU process designed to uphold the rule of law, a so-called "nuclear option" that can freeze a country's right to vote in meetings of EU ministers
Aude GENET, AFP/File

The commission has warned it could take even more serious action, saying it is ready to trigger the procedure for the EU's so-called Article 7 if Supreme Court justices are sacked.

Article 7 is a never-before-used EU process designed to uphold the rule of law, a so-called "nuclear option" that can freeze a country's right to vote in meetings of EU ministers.

The legal reforms have triggered mass street protests in Poland and raised fears for the rule of law in one of the EU's leading eastern former communist states.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has expressed fears the "whole EU system of mutual recognition of court decisions" could be undermined if Polish judicial independence were undermined.

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