The Polish government violated EU law when it changed the retirement ages of Polish judges, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday.
The decision, taken at a Grand Chamber meeting of the Luxembourg-based court, is the result of an infringement action by the European Commission against Warsaw after the Polish government reduced the retirement age for judges to 60 years for women and 65 years for men. The previous retirement age was 67 for both male and female judges.
The European Court of Justice said that Poland “failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law, first, by establishing a different retirement age for men and women who were judges or public prosecutors in Poland and, second, by lowering the retirement age of judges of the ordinary courts while conferring on the Minister for Justice the power to extend the period of active service of those judges.”
“Independence requires the court in question to exercise its functions in a fully autonomous and impartial manner,” the ECJ said. Following the judgement Poland’s foreign ministry said that the ruling by the European Union’s top court applied to “a historical state of play” and did “not reflect the current regulations.”
In November 2018 Poland’s governing party decided to reinstate Supreme Court justices whom it had forced into early retirement, following a previous ruling by European judges which ordered that Poland suspend the application of the law. The judgment of Tuesday, however, refers to the previous regulations.
The EU Commission now has to examine whether Poland the amendments made by Poland have brought it into compliance with EU law. If this is found not to be the case, Warsaw could be brought back before the courts again, after which it could face heavy fines.