02:41 GMT04 June 2020
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    Poland and the European Union have been at loggerheads over the country's judiciary legislation since late 2017, with the bloc threatening to introduce sanctions against Warsaw and suspend some of its rights as an EU member.

    European Union member states have the right to shape their judiciaries according to their own traditions, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the European Parliament on Wednesday, refuting the bloc's criticism of its court reforms.

    He went on calling for making the European Union more democratic.

    "The European project needs to be more democratic in order to reach further progress," Morawiecki said in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

    He pointed out that the growing Euroscepticism was a sign that existing mistakes needed to be corrected.

    READ MORE: EU Parliament Backs Launching Checks on Whether Poland Violates EU Values

    The prime minister's statement comes two days after the EU launched a legal action against Poland over its Supreme Court legislation. Polish reforms have lowered the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65, thus forcing 27 out of 72 judges to retire. According to the bloc, the changes will undermine judicial independence in Poland and thus run counter to EU law.

    However, the announcement has not only prompted  the EU's resentment. Early on Wednesday, several thousand people gathered before the Supreme Court in the center of Warsaw to support judge Malgorzata Gersdorf, who showed up at work in violation of the new law. Gersdorf, who is 65, had to resign immediately in accordance with the reform, even though her tenure had initially been due to end in 2020. The protesters were chanting the slogans "Irremovable!" and "Free courts!"

    The EU has launched an infringement procedure, and Poland has a month to respond to the announcement or the dispute will be settled in the the European Court of Justice.

    In December 2017, the European Commission triggered Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty over "systemic threats" to the rule of law posed by Poland's controversial judiciary legislation. Eventually, this procedure is paving the way for sanctions against Poland and suspending some of its rights as an EU member.


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