19:35 GMT +309 December 2019
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    Aerial view from a helium balloon shows downtown Warsaw and the Vistula River with the Swietokrzyski Bridge.

    European Commission Announces Start of Infringement Procedures Against Poland

    © AFP 2019 / JANEK SKARZYNSKI
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    The European Commission has started a legal action against Poland over a judicial reform.

    "The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland by sending a Letter of Formal Notice, following the publication in the Polish Official Journal of the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation on Friday 28 July," the European Commission's press service said in a statement.

    On Friday, Poland published the country's new law on ordinary courts in its official journal. EU officials, such as European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, have repeatedly warned Poland from the move saying that the new law violates EU legislation in the issues related to the judicial independence as well as gender equality due to different retirement ages for men and women.

    The statement added that Poland had one month to respond to the letter.

    According to the statement, Timmermans also sent a letter to Warsaw calling on the country's ministers of justice and foreign affairs to relaunch the dialogue on the issue.

    The bill on ordinary courts, allowing the country's justice minister to exert influence on the judges through the power of the judges' mandates prolongation, was signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday.

    At the same time, the president vetoed two other controversial bills on judicial reform. The first outlined amendments to the law on the National Council of Judiciary, under which members of the Council would have been appointed by the Parliament. The second draft bill aimed to change the system of appointing the Supreme Court judges and to allow for the dismissal of all current judges not appointed by a justice minister himself.

    The EU considers this reform as "undermining the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law", according to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

    The EC recommended against the dismissal or forced retirement of Polish Supreme Court judges as a step that would "seriously aggravate the systemic threat to the rule of law." Brussels has threatened to deprive Poland of voting rights in case of its failure to address the issue.

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