EC to act quickly on legal body set up in Poland to discipline judges

A spokesman for the European Commission said on Wednesday that it will take swift and decisive action regarding the continued operation of the Polish Supreme Court's Disciplinary Chamber, which Brussels claims breaks EU law.

The chamber was set up to deal with judges who behave unethically or break the law, and those who question the legitimacy of the government-reformed Natation Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the body which nominates judges.

Critics say the chamber may be used to attack judges who oppose an extensive overhaul of the country's judicial process by the Polish government they claim has undermined the rule of law in the country. The government denies this.

The overhaul had led to a protracted feud between the European Union and Poland, and fueled fears in Brussels that democratic values are fraying in the Central European country.

Christian Wigand, reacting to letters sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen by leaders of groups in the European Parliament calling for action on the Supreme Court's Disciplinary Chamber, told a press conference in Brussels that the Commission has a very clear position on the matter and had taken decisive action against the disciplinary chamber.

He added that the Commission was following the latest developments very closely, especially those involving Supreme Court judges and the case of Judge Igor Tuleya.

The judge was stripped of his immunity in November by the Supreme Court's Disciplinary Chamber because it wanted to press charges against him.

Wigand went on to say that the Commission believes that Poland is violating EU law by allowing the Disciplinary Chamber to take decisions which have a direct influence on judges and the way that they carry out their duties.

The prospect of facing disciplinary proceedings, he emphasised, could have a deterrent effect on judges and may affect their independence. For this reason, on January 27, the Commission had sent Poland an additional reasoned opinion on the functioning of the Disciplinary Chamber. Poland had a month to take the necessary steps to comply with EU law.

Wigand pointed out that the Commission had received a reply and that the Commission, as guardian of EU treaties would take quick and decisive action.

Last week, leaders of the largest groups in the European Parliament wrote a letter to the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, appealing for action in the case of Judge Tuleya.