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POLAND: EU's further actions on judiciary reforms

The European Commission has triggered the second stage of infringement procedures in regard to the disciplinary regime and Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court in Poland. The Commission began this procedure in April by issuing a formal notice. Poland’s response was, however, considered insufficient. The EC believes that the reform introduced by the Polish government undermines the judicial independence of Polish judges and does not ensure the necessary guarantees to protect them. Consequently, Poland will now have 2 months to issue its reply to the so-called reasoned opinion. If this dispute is not resolved, the EC may later decide to move to the third stage of infringement procedures – bringing the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The CJEU is already assessing a case in this regard – based on legal questions posed by Polish judges.

Representatives of the Polish government have argued that this decision is purely political. The current European Commission is due to end its term in the nearest time but has decided to oblige its replacement to take the baton. The decision on whether to continue this infringement procedure will be at the discretion of the new EC. The initial dispute with the EU, after the introduction of the judiciary reforms in Poland, has lost much of its momentum. Although it remains significant, it is clear that it does not carry enough political ammunition for either side of the political spectrum to benefit from. It remains to be seen whether the strained relations between Poland the European Commission will continue. This will largely depend on the priorities set out by EC President Ursula von der Leyen. Furthermore, Frans Timmermans is speculated to remain in his current position and spearhead rule of law issue in the new commission. The decision in his regard will also set the tone for case’s development. Still, on the domestic political seen, this is yet another variable, which has to be accounted for by the ruling PiS party ahead of the October general election.