Poland avoids new EU lawsuit in extremis

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki holds a news conference during the European Council summit in Brussels, Belgium, 28 June 2018. [Julien Warnand/EPA/EFE]

First Vice President Frans Timmermans on Wednesday (19 September) was expected to ask the College of Commissioners to refer the Polish Supreme Court law to the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice.

Poland’s top judge Malgorzata Gersdorf, who is locked in a dispute with the ruling party, has urged the European Union to move faster to defend her country’s judiciary from government efforts to increase its influence over the courts.

Gersdorf, who is president of the Supreme Court, is at the centre of a dispute over the rule of law in Poland. She has defied government legislation to force her early retirement, insisting her constitutional term expires in 2020.

Much to the surprise of the Brussels journalists, the Commission said that the issue was not discussed, even though the Commission chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas had suggested on Monday that big news was upcoming.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was quoted as saying that he had a “good” meeting with the head of the country’s Supreme Court earlier in the day, and welcomed the fact that the EU executive did not file a new lawsuit against Warsaw over changes to the judicial body.

Defying EU, Poland names new acting Supreme Court chief

Poland’s presidency on Tuesday (11 September) named a new acting head of the Supreme Court as Warsaw presses ahead with an overhaul of its judiciary that critics, including the EU, say undermines the rule of law in the ex-communist state.

“I am glad that the European Commission has not referred the case,” Morawiecki told reporters on arriving for the Salzburg informal EU summit, dedicated to migration and Brexit.

“I spoke yesterday to (Commission) President Jean-Claude Juncker. Today in the morning I spoke to Professor Gersdorf. It was a nice conversation… There were no sensational details, no agreements but it was a good conversation. With President Juncker as well.”

“We are showing we are open for talk,” Morawiecki said of Poland’s long-running fight with the EU, which says the nationalist government in Poland is undercutting democracy with its sweeping judicial overhaul.

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