Poland will respond to EU infringement procedure - MFA

2017-07-31 05:02 update: 2018-09-30, 15:12
"Social policy and judicial organisation belong to the powers of the member states", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday, as the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland over court reform.

The foreign ministry's statement comes following the EC's decision, earlier on Saturday, to kick off an infringement procedure against Poland in the wake of Friday's official publication of the new Polish Ordinary Courts Organisation Law.

According to the EC, the law breaks EU rules in two respects. First, it discriminates between the retirement age of male and female judges (65 and 60 years, respectively). This is said to be contrary to the European Union Treaty, as well as the EU directive on gender equality in employment.

Second, it gives the justice minister power to extend the terms of the judges who have reached the retirement age, as well as to appoint and sack court heads. This is said to undermine judicial independence.

The foreign ministry's statement emphasises that "the ordinary courts organisation law simply brings the judges' retirement age into line with the general rules in this regard, which have been binding ever since the previous government's attempt to raise the retirement age was cancelled
by the Law and Justice cabinet".

MFA goes on to state that "we regard court heads as fulfilling a mainly administrative role in the Polish justice system", further explaining that "their other actions don't affect the legal situation of the parties. In all the matters relating to a given legal case, decisions are made by the judges in charge of it. All the procedural guarantees and legal remedies are also in force."

"Moreover - the statement continues - it should be noted that social policy and judicial organisation belong to the powers of the members states". The above points - the letter concludes - will be elaborated on in Poland's official response to the EC.

The infringement procedure could potentially see Poland sued before the EU's top court, the Court of Justice, and fined, with the ruling in such cases usually given after two years.

Meanwhile, Poland's largest trade union, Solidarity, is planning to ask the EC deputy head Frans Timmermans if the Commission's critique of the ordinary courts organisation law means the EC generally disapproved of the differentiation between male and female retirement ages, which will take effect in Poland on October 1st. Currently, the previous government-established retirement age is 67 regardless of sex. (PAP)