Taking a worried note of recent developments in Poland, The Romanian Judges’ Forum Association emphasizes the need for Polish authorities to comply with the European standards on judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges, in fact, its obligations under Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union read in connection with Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental
Rights of the European Union.
We support unconditionally the efforts of our colleagues, judges from Poland, and their associations, concerning the independence of the judiciary.
On 3 July, 27 out of 72 Supreme Court judges face the risk of being forced to retire, due to the fact that the new Polish law on the Supreme Court lowers the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65. According to the law, current
judges are given the possibility to declare their will to have their mandate prolonged by the President of the Republic, which can be granted for a period of three years and renewed once. According to the draft Act on the Polish Supreme Court, the latter would
be subordinated to the Ministry of Justice – who is at the same time the Prosecutor General – regarding the Court’s organisation and its human resources. The Ministry of Justice would also be empowered with the exclusive competences of nominating candidates for judicial office holders in the Supreme Court. This Act would further undermine the separation of state powers, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Poland.
Today, the European Commission has launched an infringement procedure by sending a Letter of Formal Notice to Poland regarding the Polish law on the Supreme Court. On 18 June 2018, The Bureau of the Consultative Council of European Judges, which represents the CCJE members who are serving judges from all Council of Europe member States, had reiterated that the adopted Acts on the NCJ, Supreme Court and organisation of the judicial system entails a major step back as regards judicial independence, separation of powers and the rule of law in Poland. These Acts are also extremely worrying in terms of the message they send about the value of judges in the
society, their place in the constitutional order and their ability to provide a key public function in a meaningful way.
We strongly reaffirm the need to respect of the principles of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
The Copenhagen Criteria, as the EU admissibility criteria are known, defined by the Council in Copenhagen, in June 1993, are the following: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities; a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces; administrative and institutional capacity to effectively implement the acquis and ability to take on the obligations of membership. Through the Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 27 February 2018 in the case C-64/16, Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses, ECLI:EU:C:2018:117, theECJ stated the following: “44. The concept of independence presupposes, in particular, that the body concerned exercises its judicial functions wholly autonomously, without being subject to any hierarchical constraint or subordinated to any other body and without taking orders or instructions from any source whatsoever, and that it is thus protected against external interventions or pressure liable to impair the independent judgment of its members and to influence their decisions (see, to that effect, judgments of 19 September 2006, Wilson, C‑506/04, EU:C:2006:587, paragraph 51, and of 16 February 2017, Margarit Panicello, C‑503/15, EU:C:2017:126, paragraph 37).”
Consequently, The ROMANIAN JUDGES’ FORUM Association calls the Polish Authorities to abstain from any conduct that may lead to the infringement of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.