Europe

Poland reforms its Supreme Court 7-7-18

Source: "Poland sacks a third of its Supreme Court"  

From the article: "Judges are a pampered caste of crooks, according to Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PiS). On July 3rd its new law on the Supreme Court took effect, the culmination of a series of judicial changes pushed through by the party. The European Union has urged the government to back down, warning that it is undermining the rule of law. Poland represents a vital battle for Brussels. If the EU cannot defend its fundamental values, including the rule of law, within its own borders, other illiberal leaders will surely take note. The latest judicial reform lowers the retirement age from 70 to 65 for judges on the Supreme Court, which, among other responsibilities, rules on the validity of elections. As the law took effect on July 3rd, more than a third of its 72 judges were forced to step down.

The EU has failed to stop the Court purge. In December, citing “a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law” in Poland, the European Commission triggered action under Article 7 of the EU treaty, which could eventually result in the country’s voting rights being suspended. The chance of that happening is remote, however, because such a decision would require a unanimous vote by the other EU governments, and Hungary, for one, has vowed to stop it. Without the required support of four-fifths of the EU’s countries even to get to an earlier stage of condemnation, the procedure has reached an impasse. In a last-minute effort, the commission on July 2nd launched a separate infringement procedure against Poland for violating EU law with its changes to the Supreme Court. The Polish government now has a month to respond. After that, Poland could face a case before the EU Court of Justice, which can impose large fines but which cannot strip Poland of its voting rights."

Poland is an example of how illiberal groups consolidate their power in a democratic state, by weakening institutions that check and balance political power. And Poland is also an example of the core weaknesses built into the European Union, which is powerless to stop PiS from gutting the Court.