Poland bows to EU court reversal of Supreme Court retirements

File photo. People hold placards 'Constitution' during their protest in front of the Supreme Court building in Warsaw, Poland, 11 October 2018. [Jakub Kaminski/EPA/EFE]

Poland on Monday (17 December) bowed to a ruling by the EU’s top court ordering it to suspend a law that had lowered the retirement age of its Supreme Court judges amid concerns about judicial independence.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) had initially ordered Poland on 19 October to suspend the law before finalising the “interim measure” on Monday.

“Poland must immediately suspend the application of the provisions of national legislation relating to the lowering of the retirement age for Supreme Court judges,” the ECJ said in a statement.

Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the legislation reversing the retirements on Monday evening, with only hours to spare before a midnight deadline set by Polish law.

On 21 November Poland’s parliament passed the legislation bowing to the initial EU court ruling.

Poland reverses Supreme Court law changes after EU ruling

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) rushed a legislative amendment through parliament on Wednesday (21 November) reversing changes it had made at the Supreme Court that the European Union had condemned as undemocratic.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has been locked in a bitter battle over sweeping judicial changes introduced by Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government since it took office in 2015.

Rule of law dispute with Poland simmers on, with no end in sight

Despite expectations to the contrary, the European Commission decided not to refer the Polish Supreme Court law to the EU’s top court on Wednesday (19 September), following a meeting of EU affairs ministers that heard Poland’s arguments on Tuesday. But it does not necessarily mean a detente is on the cards.

The showdown has led the EU to trigger unprecedented proceedings against Poland over “systemic threats” to the rule of law that could eventually see its EU voting rights suspended.

In early October, the Commission took Poland’s government to the ECJ for lowering the age at which Supreme Court judges must retire from 70 to 65.

On 19 October the court ordered Poland to suspend the law “pending the making of an order closing the interim proceedings”.

The court, which upheld the interim measures on Monday, is expected to make a permanent decision in the case next year.

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