Rule of Law: European Commission refers Poland to the European Court of Justice to protect the independence of the Polish Supreme Court

Today, the European Commission decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU due to the violations of the principle of judicial independence created by the new Polish Law on the Supreme Court, and to ask the Court of Justice to order interim measures until it has issued a judgment on the case.

The new Polish law on the Supreme Court lowers the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65, putting 27 out of 72 sitting Supreme Court judges at risk of being forced to retire. This measure also applies to the First President of the Supreme Court, whose 6-year mandate, set out in the Polish Constitution, would be prematurely terminated. The European Commission maintains that the Polish law on the Supreme Court is incompatible with EU law as it undermines the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges, and thereby Poland fails to fulfil its obligations under Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union read in connection with Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Commission has therefore moved to the next stage of the infringement procedure, deciding to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. With its referral, the Commission has also decided to ask the Court of Justice to order interim measures, restoring Poland’s Supreme Court to its situation before 3 April 2018, when the contested new laws were adopted. Finally, the Commission has decided to request an expedited procedure at the Court of Justice, to obtain a final judgment as soon as possible. The full press release is available online.