Nearly a year after a major rift opened between the right-wing Polish government and the European Commission over Poland’s decision to forcibly retire supreme court judges, a move that caused outrage in Brussels as the EU institutions accused Warsaw of trampling on the rule of law and judicial independence, Poland appears to have reversed course and passed legislation that will pave the way for the reinstatement of the judges.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party opted to back down from their earlier decision after the European Court of Justice demanded last month that the Polish government put an end to what was seen as an attempt to unconstitutionally take over the country’s highest court.
The EU’s Commissioner for Internal Market and Industry Elżbieta Bieńkowska, a Pole, hailed the decision.
“The Commission is satisfied with the changes that have occurred, exactly in the direction that we asked for,” said a European Commission spokesperson, adding that changes must, however, be confirmed when the legislative process concludes in Warsaw.
“The government’s withdrawal from some of its activities…and from some of the actions that the government, in its own justification, considered that violated the rule of law – is something that is very positive,” said Bieńkowska.
Bieńkowska added that it was too early to comment on whether the European Commission will withdraw its complaint with the EU Court of Justice until the legislative process is completed.
The new amendment effectively annuls an earlier provision that lowered the retirement age for supreme court judge from 70 to 65, which prematurely ended the terms of more than two dozen judges. By forcing the judges into early retirement, the Eurosceptic Law and Justice party was given carte blanche to fill the key positions with judges of their own choice.
The changes to will now go to the Senate for debate though no timeline has been established.