The European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) has asked Poland to temporarily suspend its controversial reform of the Supreme Court, pending a final judgment, according to a statement released on Friday.
The European Commission asked the ECJ on 24 September to suspend the roll out of the controversial legislation, which lowered the retirement age of judges from 70 to 65, a measure affecting 27 judges or 30 percent of the bench. According to Brussels this reform “is incompatible with EU law”, and as it threatens to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The decision of the ECJ “applies, with retroactive effect, to the judges of the Supreme Court concerned by these provisions”, adds the Court in its communiqué. However, this is a provisional decision. “The Court will render its final judgment on the merits of this case at a later date (…). An order on provisional measures does not prejudge the outcome of the main action,” the Court continues.
This is the second referral to the ECJ by the European executive concerning the recent Polish judicial reforms.
The infringement procedures are conducted in parallel with a more exceptional procedure, referred to as “Article 7” of the EU Treaty. The latter was also launched in December 2017 by the European Commission, which concluded that there was “a clear risk of serious violation” of the rule of law in Poland.
This mechanism had never been triggered, but it has since been activated against Viktor Orban’s Hungary by the European Parliament on 12 September. In a second phase, this procedure can in theory lead to the withdrawal of voting rights from a country within the Council of the EU, the body where the Member States contribute to shaping European legislation.