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POLAND: Reply to 2nd stage of infringement procedure

The Polish government has replied to the second stage of the EU’s infringement procedure triggered against Poland – the European Commission’s accusations have been rejected by Warsaw. In August, the Commission addressed a reasoned opinion to the Polish government. The EC was previously unsatisfied with Poland’s explanation  regarding the disputed amendment bill on the Supreme Court – it remains of the opinion that Poland is in jeopardy of the Treaty on European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European Commission may now decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) – this may occur as early as next week. 
At the beginning of August, the Supreme Court referred five questions for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU. It also suspended the application of new provisions determining the rules for the retirement of judges of the Supreme Court. This has caused a domestic legal crisis, with experts divided as to the legality of these actions. The government, President Andrzej Duda and the State Judiciary Council refuse to adhere to the suspension. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, disregards most decisions of the government regarding the functioning of the court. If the Commission decides to refer Poland to the CJEU, the two cases may consequently be combined. It remains to be seen whether the Polish government will change its tone. Previously, it applied the Commission’s recommendations regarding local courts before the case was referred to the CJEU. Still, Juncker’s State of the Union speech suggests that the Commission may decide to take a firmer position against Poland.