EU seeks penalties on Poland in dispute over judicial reform

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The European Commission said on Tuesday it had asked the EU’s top court to impose financial penalties on Poland over the activities of a judges’ disciplinary chamber, stepping up a long-running dispute with Warsaw over the rule of law.

The European Union’s executive, the European Commission, is also at loggerheads with Poland over issues ranging from a challenge by its government to the primacy of EU law to LGBT rights and press freedoms.

The EU says the Polish disciplinary chamber is being used to pressure judges or exert political control over judicial decisions and its top court, ruling that it undercuts EU law, has ordered that it be dissolved.

The Polish government said three weeks ago that the chamber would be dismantled as part of wider judiciary reforms in coming months, but the Commission said it was now taking action.

“The Commission is asking the Court to impose a daily penalty payment on Poland for as long as the measures imposed by the court’s order are not fully implemented,” the Commission said in a statement.

“The Commission also decided to send a letter of formal notice … to Poland, for not taking the necessary measures to comply fully with the judgment of the Court of Justice.”

The European Commission argues that, while the chamber may not be accepting any new cases, it is still working through existing cases.

Polish government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the move by the European Commission, which said a decision on how much to sanction Warsaw would lie with the EU court.

The Commission recently warned five Polish regional councils they could lose funding over declarations that they were “LGBT-free”, and it has said Warsaw’s position that EU law does not stand above national law is holding up the release of 57 billion euros in EU recovery funds.

Polish Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said the bloc’s executive was acting unlawfully by blocking funds for Warsaw and seeking penalties against it.

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