Polish court rules EU measures unconstitutional

Warsaw ruling comes day before expected far-reaching ruling on judicial reforms

Supreme Court  in Warsaw: Since taking office in 2015, PiS has upended judicial appointments procedures to appoint new judges in contested circumstances, including many critics say are PiS allies. Photograph:  Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto

Supreme Court in Warsaw: Since taking office in 2015, PiS has upended judicial appointments procedures to appoint new judges in contested circumstances, including many critics say are PiS allies. Photograph: Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto

 

Poland has hit the nuclear button in its legal conflict with the European Union, after its constitutional court ruled on Wednesday that Warsaw does not have to obey rulings from the EU’s highest court on contested judicial reforms.

The Warsaw ruling came a day before an expected far-reaching ruling on just such reforms at the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Luxembourg, bringing to a head a five-year feud with Brussels over controversial reforms by the ruling national conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Since taking office in 2015, PiS has upended judicial appointments procedures to appoint new judges in contested circumstances, including many candidates that critics say are PiS allies. In addition it has boosted parliamentary influence on a judge-appointment body and set up a new disciplinary body for sitting judges.

In The News podcast

Judicial independence

These measures have been contested at the CJEU by the European Commission; it argues that the changes undermine the rule of law and endanger judicial independence.

PiS has defended its judicial reforms as essential to remove remainders of old communist structures and asked its constitutional tribunal whether it, the European Commission in Brussels or the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Luxembourg had the final say over Poland’s constitution and law.

“It’s time to give the CJEU the treatment it deserves. Ignore completely the unlawful actions of ‘politicised’ judges,” tweeted Janusz Kowalski, a member of the ruling coalition.

Lawyers for the country’s independent ombudsman urged against making the ruling, warning it would have “far-reaching consequences” for Poland’s EU membership.