EU steps up action against Poland over Supreme Court law

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The European Union is increasing pressure on Poland over what it sees as flaws in the country's Supreme Court law, and has given Warsaw a month to act before facing possible court action. Yesterday's move centers on Polish legislation that forces the early retirement of over a third of the Supreme Court justices. The law is the culmination of the ruling populist Law and Justice party (PiS)'s efforts to put Poland's entire court system under its control, a plan it began nearly three years ago.

The EU Commission objected to the law, saying it falls short of the values guiding the 28-nation bloc, and said that Poland's explanation "does not alleviate the Commission's legal concerns." It said a case could be opened at the EU's highest court in a month. "The Commission maintains that the Polish law is incompatible with EU law as it undermines the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges," the EU's executive yesterday as it took to a second level a formal infringement procedure against Warsaw, as reported by Reuters. Poland now has a month to make amends or the Commission will file a lawsuit at the bloc's top European Court of Justice.

The EU has threatened to take punitive action that could include stripping Poland of its voting rights if Warsaw does not retract legislation that tightens state controls over the judiciary. Governed by PiS party, the EU's largest ex-communist state has most recently enacted laws forcing into early retirement many Supreme Court judges.

Poland argues that in some other EU member states, including Spain and Germany, politicians also play a role in picking some judges. It says its judicial reforms are necessary to improve the efficiency and transparency of Poland's court system.

The right-wing government in Warsaw is at loggerheads with the European Commission, the EU's executive, on a range of issues, including migrant quotas. Poland is refusing to take in some of the mainly Muslim asylum seekers under the quota system.

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