LUXEMBOURG: The EU’s top court on Wednesday ordered Poland to pay one million euros a day for not suspending a controversial “disciplinary chamber” at the heart of a bitter feud between Warsaw and Brussels.
The European Commission requested the fine last month after the Polish authorities failed to comply with an interim judgement from July ordering an immediate halt to the activities of the chamber.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has yet to deliver on a promise to close down the body that is seen by critics as a way to keep judges in line with government policy.
The latest move risks deepening a bitter standoff over judicial independence and the primacy of EU law which some fear has put Poland’s membership of the bloc in question.
“The road of penalties and blackmail against our country is not the right one,” Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller tweeted.
“This is not the model in which the European Union — a union of sovereign states — should operate.”
Poland’s Constitutional Court earlier this month ruled that parts of EU law were incompatible with the Polish constitution in a decision denounced by Brussels.
The dispute soured a summit of EU leaders in Brussels last week at which Morawiecki said Poland was “ready for dialogue” but would not “act under the pressure of blackmail”.
He later accused the EU of putting a “gun to our head” by threatening sanctions if Warsaw did not comply.
Several EU leaders at the summit had insisted Brussels should not release 36 billion euros ($42 billion) in pandemic recovery money that Poland badly wants while the issue is unresolved.
The bloc’s executive said it was also mulling other options including pushing to suspend some of Warsaw’s voting rights or triggering a new mechanism to withhold funds.
The Court’s decision confirms “deep concerns about the risk of serious and irreparable damage to the European Union’s legal order and the rule of law”, said EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.
“We are available to engage in dialogue with the Polish authorities,” he said, adding that he would visit Warsaw in mid-November.
Warsaw and Brussels have been at loggerheads for years over the judicial reforms pushed through by the Law and Justice (PiS) government.