Judges sue EU Council for approving Polish recovery plan despite rule-of-law concerns
Four European judges' associations have filed a lawsuit in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) against the EU Council for approving Poland's plan on how to spend €24bn in post-pandemic recovery funds.
According to the Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ), the European Association of Judges (EAJ), Rechters voor Rechters and Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés (MEDEL) the Council of the EU gave greenlight to Poland’s recovery plan in June despite ongoing rule-of-law concerns.
"This application seeks the annulment of the Council’s decision on the grounds that the rule of law 'milestones' fall short of what is required to ensure the effective judicial protection and disregard the judgements of the Court of Justice of the EU on the matter," they announced on Sunday 28 August.
European Justice Commissioner, the Belgian Didier Reynders, said in the end of January that Brussels was applying “real pressure” on Poland to get in line with EU standards on judicial independence and to comply with recent EU court orders.
On 22 December last year, Reynders had also complained through his Twitter account that the European Commission had tried to engage in a dialogue, but the situation was "not improving".
"We are launching an infringement procedure against Poland for violations of EU law by its Constitutional Tribunal. Fundamentals of the EU legal order, notably the primacy of EU law, must be respected," he said, then.
After long negotiations, the Polish government announced in May this year that the two sides had agreed a series of “milestones” to unlock the money. Some members of the European Commission voiced their concern, but eventually approved Poland's plan. Only the Netherlands abstained. Then the European Commission made the recommendation to the EU Council, that approved the decision in June.
The four European judges’ organisations say that the milestones are not sufficient to ensure judicial independence.
“This decision also harms the European judiciary as a whole and the position of every single European judge,” they add. “All judges of every single Member State are also European judges, having to apply EU Law, in a system based on mutual trust.”
“If the judiciary of one or more Member States no longer offers guarantees of independence and respect for the basic principles of the Rule of Law, the entire European judiciary is undeniably affected.”
“The reason for asking the annulment of the EU Council’s decision is to make explicit the principle that judgments of the CJEU on the subject of the independence of judiciaries should be enforced without delay and in full,” the judges said. The “Council decision violates this principle, because there is no full — i.e. unconditional — enforcement of CJEU judgments.”
© BELGA PHOTO (Wojtek Radwanski / AFP) European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen shakes hands with Polish President Andrzej Duda following a press conference at the PSE Polish Power Systems headquarters in Konstancin-Jeziorna near Warsaw on June 2, 2022. Poland will only receive the money from post-Covid economic recovery package if it carries out rule of law reforms, Von der Leyen said on June 2.