Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) claims the controversial new measures are aimed at improving the workings of the country’s judicial system. But the European Union has not bought the government’s explanation and has clashed with the Poles over the issue for the past four years. After taking office last December, Ms von der Leyen had hoped to find common ground with Poland’s conservative-nationalist government on the topic.
But the PiS has shown it is not willing to bow to Eurocrats’ pressure by rolling out further judicial changes which came into effect this month.
The party says it is not the place of the EU to interfere in internal affairs of member states.
But critics slammed the PiS for what they say was a brazen move which poses a threat to judiciary independence in the eastern European nation.
Opponents said the changes could cause courts across Europe to stop recognising Polish courts as independent.
Ms von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, and her team are not showing any signs of giving up the fight.
Reports suggest Brussels will likely ask the European Court of Justice to suspend the measures.
While the commission did not comment on what move it would make next, it did issue a warning to Poland.
The body said it would not hesitate to “take appropriate measures as necessary”.
Dutch judge Kees Sterk, who is president of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, has been an outspoken critic of the raft of changes.
He told the Financial Times: “A lot of people think that what keeps the [European] Union together is the free market, economics, and finance.
“But actually, the cement of the union is law: uniformly applied law, and mutual trust and recognition of law among member states.
“If the mutual trust is not there anymore, the disintegration of the EU could go very rapidly.
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“Trust goes easily, but it is very difficult to recover it.”
The changes pave the way for judges to be sacked for questioning the government’s new laws.
And they also make it easier for judges appointed under the ruling party to decide who should be the next head of Poland’s Supreme Court.
After taking office in 2015, the PiS assumed direct control of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS).
The formerly independent body oversees processes of appointment, promotion and discipline of all Polish judges.
In January judges from 20 European countries took part in a protest march through the streets of Warsaw.
They were joined by thousands of members of the public for the silent demonstration.
Judges donned robes for the protest which was an unprecedented display of international solidarity among the judiciary.
Norway, Bulgaria and the Netherlands were among the countries represented on the day.
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