Poland asks EU to halt rule-of-law fines

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WARSAW, Nov 4 (Reuters) – Poland has submitted an official request to the European Union to suspend fines of 1 million euros a day imposed by the bloc’s top court over Warsaw’s failure to implement a court order concerning judicial reforms, a Polish minister said.

The fine was imposed just over a year ago following Poland’s failure to dissolve a disciplinary chamber for judges that Brussels said was politicised.

The fines have currently accumulated to some 370 million euros ($365.15 million), about 270 million euros of which have already been deducted from funds Poland would have otherwise received from the EU.

Warsaw has since replaced the chamber with a new body, but critics say the problem of judges’ independence being undermined has not been resolved.

“We have filed a motion to suspend the imposition of penalties after the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) ruling on the Disciplinary Chamber,” Poland’s EU Affairs Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek told private broadcaster Polsat News.

Szynkowski vel Sek said the request contained “strong arguments” about the way the disciplinary system for judges had changed.

The European Commission in Brussels, the EU executive, said it had already received a similar request from Poland back in June.

“Back then, we assessed that while we have seen progress on certain specific issues, not all of obligations… have been fully addressed in (Poland’s) new law on (its) Supreme Court,” said Christian Wigand, a spokesman for the Commission.

Since June, Poland’s Chamber of Professional Responsibility has taken shape, with President Andrzej Duda appointing 11 judges to the body in September and its head in October.

Wigand said the European Commission would now “carefully analyse” the new letter to see if any new developments in Poland mean the country now fully complies with decisions of the European Court of Justice.

“Until this is done, Poland will continue to pay the fines imposed by the court,” said Wigand.

($1 = 1.0161 euros)

Reporting by Alan Charlish, Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton

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