The European Union’s top court ruled on Oct 27th that the Polish government must pay a daily penalty of €1million (about $1.2 million) for keeping a disciplinary tribunal for judges, citing the priority of EU law over national legislation.
“Poland is ordered to pay the European Commission a daily penalty payment in the amount of €1.000.000 because it has not suspended the application of provisions of national legislation relating, in particular, to the areas of jurisdiction of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court,” the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said in a press release.
The punitive step comes after the Luxembourg court instructed Poland to immediately cease all chamber activity as an interim remedy in July, sparking a verbal spat in which Poland told the EU to keep out of its judicial matters.
The fine imposed on Wednesday is separate from a daily penalty of 500,000 euros ($580,000) imposed by the CJEU last month for Poland’s failure to comply with an injunction to halt operations at the Turow brown coal mine near the Czech border, which the Czech government claimed was harming its communities.
Poland has apparently rejected the ruling, and the mine is still active. It is conceivable for EU nations to refuse to pay penalties issued by the European Commission (EC), despite the fact that the EU can divert monies from its finances to Poland or any other EU member.
Last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki assured the European Parliament that the disciplinary chamber would be abolished and replaced by a new system by the end of the year, but no precise proposals have been revealed.
The CJEU’s penalties, according to Sebastian Kaleta, Poland’s deputy justice minister, are “usurpation and blackmail” since they “completely disregards and ignore the Polish constitution.”
The daily fee was “necessary in order to avoid serious and irreparable harm to the legal order of the European Union and to the values on which that Union is founded, in particular, that of the rule of law,” according to a news release issued by the CJEU on Wednesday.
In early October, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal concluded that several EU rules conflict with the country’s constitution and that national laws will take precedence over EU legislation in places where they conflict, a move that the EU chastised and sparked a week-long spat between Poland and the EU.
According to the primacy principle, EU regulations are superior to national laws for member states of the 27-nation union.
“The attempt by the European Court of Justice to involve itself with Polish legal mechanisms violates … the rules that give priority to the constitution and rules that respect sovereignty amid the process of European integration,” the tribunal ruled at the time.
Since 2015, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has been at odds with Brussels over various issues, including the judiciary, illegal immigration, and LGBT rights.