WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed into law regulations replacing the controversial judges’ disciplinary body with a new accountability panel in hopes it will persuade the European Union to release billions of euros of frozen pandemic funds over Poland’s political control of the judiciary.
Duda signed the law amendments on Monday evening, his office said.
They are widely seen as a superficial and continued political check on judges, which is a major sticking point between Warsaw and Brussels, leading to fines for Poland and the suspension of coronavirus recovery funds.
EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen has warned that no money will be disbursed if Poland fails to meet ‘milestones’ in granting judicial independence: abolishing the chamber discipline, rewrite its rules and allow judges sanctioned or suspended by the chamber to have their case reviewed.
The changes Duda drafted remove the Supreme Court’s disciplinary chamber, which has been used to punish outspoken judges. It will be replaced by a new responsible body to be appointed by the President.
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Only one of the many judges sanctioned for criticizing government actions in the justice sector was reinstated, but was appointed to a different section of the court and put on leave.
Von der Leyen came under fire last week from centrist lawmakers in the European Parliament after the European Commission, the EU’s executive body. conditionally accepted Poland’s pandemic recovery plan, opening the possibility of disbursement of dedicated funds, totaling around 36 billion euros ($39 billion). Lawmakers argued the decision was premature because Poland failed to meet EU terms.
The disciplinary chamber has cost Poland dearly. The European Court of Justice has fined Poland a record 1 million euros a day for failing to dismantle it.
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