EU demand Poland pay fines for disciplining judges

The European Union executive is set to demand that Poland pay around €70 million of fines in the coming weeks for failing to scrap a contentious system for disciplining judges, sources have told Reuters.

The dispute is one of many battles pitting Poland against the EU, which accuses the nationalist government in Warsaw of backsliding on democratic standards, including the independence of the judiciary. Warsaw denies the charge.

“I regret that the situation of the rule of law in Poland shows no signs of improvement and judges continue to be under pressure. We will continue to do our duty to defend the rule of law and judicial independence,” said Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency.

Separately, a spokesman for the Commission told reporters that the Brussels-based executive had received Poland’s latest explanation in the dispute, adding: “The EU has ways to ensure payment of fines due from Poland.”

January 11 was the deadline for Warsaw to tell the Commission when and how it would dismantle the Disciplinary Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court, which the EU’s top EU court had ordered suspended, or pay fines worth €1 million a day.

Should Poland’s response fail to satisfy the Commission, which enforces European law, a source in the EU executive said it would send an invoice to Warsaw, with a 45-day deadline to pay.

By then, the fine would amount to some €70 million, said a second Commission source, adding that the call for payment would be sent to Warsaw “very soon”.

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