Deputy justice minister Sebastian Kaleta wrote on Twitter: “The EC is initiating proceedings and wants to subordinate the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland to EU law. This is an attack on the Polish constitution and our sovereignty.”
The legal action was announced by the Commission on Wednesday with the bloc expressing “serious concerns” over Polish Constitutional Tribunal rulings which the EC says challenge the primacy of EU law.
Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal sparked fury in Brussels after it ruled in October that the country’s membership of the EU did not give the bloc’s courts supreme legal authority.
The Commission ruling on Wednesday found Poland failed to take steps to fully comply with an ECJ injunction in July which demanded the country’s disciplinary chamber and the effects of decisions already taken on the lifting of judicial immunity be suspended.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he did not agree with the Commission’s position and that it had misinterpreted the powers been conferred upon it.
He said: “I think that more and more European Union member states are seeing that there must be a limit to [the EU’s] competences.”
In a statement, the Commission said it was launching the infringement procedure because Constitutional Tribunal rulings deprived individuals seeking action through the Polish courts of the right to effective judicial protection as set down in EU treaties.
The Commission said it has serious doubts over the independence and impartiality of the Constitutional Tribunal, alleging it no longer meets the requirements of a tribunal previously established by law.
Poland has two months to reply to a letter of formal notice sent on Wednesday.
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If the Commission is not satisfied with Warsaw’s reply, it can send Poland a reasoned opinion requesting it comply with EU law, again with a two-month reply period.
After that, the Commission can sue Poland in the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which can impose daily fines on Warsaw until it complies.
Reuters reports that it has already imposed such daily fines on Poland in two other cases, which now add up to €1.5 million ($1.70 million) per day.
The move escalates a bitter battle between the EU and Warsaw over the rule of law which started when Poland’s ruling nationalist and euro-sceptic PiS party came to power in 2015.
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It is a clash which has delayed the release of billions of euros from EU recovery funds to Poland with the Commission saying the country’s courts are not independent from political influence, meaning the funds would not be protected from misuse.
The Polish government insists reforms were needed to streamline the judiciary and remove what is left of the country’s former Communist regime.
Mr Morawiecki launched a legal challenge in March. It was the first time an EU member state’s leader comprehensively questioned EU treaties within a constitutional court.
That action was prompted by the ECJ ruling that a new system of selecting judges in Poland broke EU law.
Mr Morawiecki wanted to prevent Polish judges from using EU law to question the legitimacy of judges appointed following changes to the country’s judiciary.
On Monday, the Polish PM wrote to fellow European Union leaders to warn them that the EU risked becoming a centrally managed organism run by institutions deprived of democratic control.