EU News 184/2017
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Today, the European Commission decided to send a Reasoned Opinion to Poland regarding the Polish law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation.
The Commission has carried out a thorough analysis of the response of the Polish authorities to the Letter of Formal Notice sent in July 2017 concerning the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation.
The European Commission maintains its position that the Polish Law is incompatible with EU law because by introducing a different retirement age for female judges (60 years) and male judges (65 years), it discriminates against individuals on the basis of gender. This is contrary to Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Directive 2006/54 on gender equality in employment.
The Commission also raises legal concerns that by giving the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, as well as to dismiss and appoint Court Presidents, the independence of Polish courts will be undermined, contrary to Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) read in connection with Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The new rules allow the Minister of Justice to exert influence on individual judges through, in particular, the vague criteria for the prolongation of their mandates and the lack of a time-frame to take a decision on the prolongation, thereby undermining the principle of irremovability of judges. Also the discretionary power to dismiss and appoint Court Presidents allows the Minister of Justice to exert influence over these judges when they are adjudicating cases involving the application of EU law.
The Commission has therefore moved to the next stage of the infringement procedure. The Polish authorities now have one month to take the necessary measures to comply with this Reasoned Opinion. If the Polish authorities do not take appropriate measures, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.