Poland backs down in row with EU over disciplining judges

Poland has told the European Union it will shut down a chamber at its supreme court devoted to disciplining judges, an issue that has been at the heart of a dispute between Warsaw and Brussels.

The Polish government said on Tuesday that it had sent a letter to the European Commission on Monday, the deadline for Warsaw to inform the EU’s executive branch of how it would proceed after the EU’s top court said the chamber undermined judicial independence and contravened EU law.

In announcing that it would disband the chamber, the Polish government insisted that it needed to have ways to punish judges who broke the law or otherwise abused their positions. It said it would find ways to do this as it continued a shake-up of the judicial system.

The government also insisted that Polish law had primacy over EU law, another question that has been aggravating tensions between the 27-member bloc and Poland, its fifth most populous member state.

A European Commission spokesperson, Christian Wigand, said Poland’s letter had been received and was being analysed, and he could not comment further at this point.

Since the conservative Law and Justice party took power in Poland in 2015, it has overhauled the justice system in a way that has given the party new powers over the courts and appointment of judges. The changes have drawn strong criticism and warnings of sanctions from the EU, which considers many of the changes to violate the democratic principle of the separation of powers.

The European Commission had given Poland until Monday to heed the injunction or face financial sanctions.




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