The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Poland over the ruling Law and Justice Party's plans to exert greater control on the national court system, which the former says is a threat to the rule of law in Warsaw.
According to a statement by the commission, "The Polish authorities have one month to reply to the Letter of Formal Notice."
The statement said that he commission's key legal concern relates to the discrimination on the basis of gender due to the introduction of a different retirement age for female judges (60 years) and male judges (65 years).
The commission also raises concerns that by giving the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, as well as to dismiss and appoint Court Presidents, the independence of Polish courts will be undermined.
The new rules allow the Minister of Justice to exert influence on individual ordinary judges though, in particular, the vague criteria for the prolongation of their mandates thereby undermining the principle of irremovability of judges.
While decreasing the retirement age, the law allows judges to have their mandate extended by the Minister of Justice for up to ten years for female judges and five years for male judges. Also, there is no time-frame for the Minister of Justice to make a decision on the extension of the mandate, allowing him to retain influence over the judges concerned for the remaining time of their judicial mandate.
Earlier this month, the European Commission warned the Polish government that it risks being stripped of its EU voting rights if it forces Supreme Court judges out of office.