The Malta Independent 13 November 2019, Wednesday

EU court says Poland's Supreme Court reforms unlawful; Repubblika hails it a 'landmark judgement'

Monday, 24 June 2019, 17:46 Last update: about 6 months ago

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued what some local rule of law campaigners have called a 'truly landmark case' on the independence that is expected of the judiciary in EU countries.

Repubblika referred to a judgement by the CJEU in the case of the European Commission versus Poland.

The Associated Press reports that the European Union's top court ruled that a Polish law that pushed Supreme Court judges into early retirement violates EU law.

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In its ruling, the EU's Court of Justice said the measures breach judicial independence. Under an interim decision in November 2018, Polish authorities had been forced to remove the provisions that forced about a third of the top court's judges into early retirement and reinstate the judges, the Associated Press said.

The court said the law "undermines the principle of the irremovability of judges, that principle being essential to their independence."

In a statement, Repubblika said that this judgment will also shape the future of the judiciary in Malta "and put a stop to the systematic capture of the last remaining pillar of our democracy."

Last April Repubblika filed a similar case in Malta asking the court to refer the matter for a Preliminary Ruling from the EU court. The First Hall of the Civil Court had turned down an application signed by former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil and PN MP Jason Azzopardi to stop judiciary appointments until a court case related to the appointments system is decided. The same court also turned down a request for the matter to be referred to the European Court, the government had said. In a separate decree however, Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti decided to postpone his decision on whether to refer Repubblika's complaint to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. In his decision he said he would wait for a decision by the European Court expected in the case the European Commission filed against Poland on interventions by the government of that country on the independence of its judiciary.

In a statement today, Repubblika said that in that decree, "Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti had already stated that today's decision will guide the Maltese courts on the question of applicability of the EU treaty in Malta. That guidance is now clear."

"Today's decision should also guide Malta's government with regard to the independence that is expected of the judiciary in Malta. The EU treaty applies in Malta too, and the Government cannot continue to ignore it."

"Today's landmark ruling also serves as guidance to the European Commission. Repubblika has petitioned the Commission to investigate how the system breaches the EU treaty in Malta. We expect action because our rights are no less important than the rights of the Polish people."

Justice Ministry statement

The Justice Ministry, in reaction, said that the Polish court found that EU law was breached when the Polish government passed a law in which the retirement age fo rthe judiciary was reduced from 70 to 65, whole leaving the right with the Polish President as to who can serve despite being over 65. "In our country we have no such law." The ministry said that in the last legislature an independent organ to provide advice to the government regarding judicial appointments was created, in order to strengthen the laws regarding appointments to the judiciary."

The government also denied that the Venice Commission had advised the government to stop appointing members of the judiciary until there are more reforms in this sector.

The government said that it remains committeed to strengthening the rule of law with more laws to modernise the rule of law in Malta.

 


 

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