Mon, 24 Jan 2022

WARSAW, Poland: Ahead of an 11th January European Union (EU) deadline for Warsaw to inform Brussels of how and when it will dismantle Poland's Supreme Court's Disciplinary Chamber, a Polish minister has accused Brussels of making "illegal demands."

Poland would have to pay at least €70 million in fines, endure delays in receiving further billions to support its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and face the possible loss of additional development funds if it fails to comply.

The case is among many points of contention between the EU and Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in 2015 and has been accused of eroding the freedom of courts, the media, women, gays and migrants, among others.

In October, the top EU court fined Warsaw for failing to immediately halt the work of the chamber, whose purpose is to discipline judges, pending a final verdict.

Asked about the deadline, Poland's Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta, a member of a hardline eurosceptic coalition partner of PiS, said the emergency measures ordered by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) "breached competences Poland vested in the EU."

Kaleta told Reuters, "These are illegal demands," adding that Poland would not bow to "blackmail by EU institutions."

The European Court of Justice, which is expected to make its final ruling on the issue this year, usually follows the opinion of its adviser, who last May said the Polish disciplinary regime for judges is in violation of EU law.

Related fines amount to €1 million per day and will add up to €70 million as of January 10.

If Warsaw continues to refuse to pay, the EU executive European Commission could add interest and deduct the total from development funds earmarked for Poland for 2021-27.

"Once the final ECJ ruling is in, the interim measures expire. At the same time, what is already due is due. But we have never been in such a situation," an EU official said.

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