The European Union executive is set to demand that Poland pay around 70 million euros of fines for failing to scrap a contentious system for disciplining judges, sources have told Reuters.
A spokesman for the European Commission separately confirmed at a news conference on Tuesday that it had received Poland’s latest explanation on the dispute, one of the bloc’s many battles with Warsaw over democratic standards. “EU has ways to ensure payment of due fines from Poland,” the spokesman said.
January 11 was the deadline for the nationalist government in Poland to tell the Commission when and how it planned to dismantle the Disciplinary Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court, which the top EU court had ordered to be suspended.
Warsaw has already refused to heed the decision of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which then approved a fine of 1 million euros a day.
Two sources at the Commission, speaking separately and on condition of anonymity, said the letter was in Polish, so it would need to be translated before the Commission could make a formal response.
Should it fail to satisfy the Commission – which acts as the enforcer of joint EU laws, including on protecting the judiciary from political meddling – one of the sources 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 euros, the second source confirmed, adding that the so-called “call for payment” would be sent to Warsaw very soon.
Asked about the case last week, a deputy Polish justice minister accused the EU of making “illegal demands” of his country, and said Warsaw would not give in to “blackmail”.
The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party introduced the new policing system for judges in 2017, part of a sweeping overhaul of the judiciary widely denounced as undermining the independence of courts and judges, a central principle of modern liberal democracies and of Polish and EU laws alike.