In the Warsaw government’s first official high-level reaction to the European Court of Justice’s decision to fine Poland a total of 1.5 million euros per day, Justice Minister Zbigniew Zubrów said his country should not be “subject to injustice”.
On Wednesday, the European Union’s Supreme Court fined Poland 1 million euros a day to prevent what it called “serious and irreparable damage” to the EU’s legal system, mainly by having a politically influential high court body to discipline judges and undermine the independence of the judiciary. In July, an EU court ordered Poland to close the disciplinary chamber. Poland has given its consent, but has not yet done so.
Last month, the European Court of Justice fined Poland €500,000 last month for failing to comply with an order to close the Toro Lignite mine in a long-running dispute with the neighboring Czech Republic. Poland paid the fine, and Warsaw says it cannot shut down the mine because it supplies the Toro power plant, which generates about 7% of the country’s electricity.
“Whether it is illegal penalties for Turow … or a punishment for changes in the judiciary, Poland cannot and should not pay a single zloty, (national currency – no).
Ziobro was the first government official to speak out in favor of refusing to pay fines. Earlier, one of his deputies recommended freezing Poland’s membership in the European Union until “the Europeans recover”.
The European Network of Councils of Justice expelled the Polish Council on Thursday over serious concerns about its independence. Some members of the Polish Council were appointed by political recommendation. The expulsion was voted on at the General Assembly of the European Union in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. The councils recommend judicial appointments and help organize the work of the judiciary.
The European Union is warning that it may suspend the payment of pandemic recovery funds to Poland if the disciplinary body is not dissolved, but Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she hoped a compromise could be found on Wednesday. She said the strict conditions for paying the money to Poland would include closing the disciplinary chamber and making changes in the way judges are disciplined, as well as reinstating some suspended judges.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Thursday that the government would reach a compromise, but said it would take months. He told the European Parliament last week that the disciplinary chamber would be dissolved, but did not give a deadline and also indicated that another body would replace it.
Associated Press, ARD
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