Poland will be removed from the European Network for Councils of the Judiciary (ENCJ). This is because the Polish council no longer meets the requirements for membership, such as independence from the incumbent government.
The network suspended the Polish Council of the Judiciary (KRS) in September 2018 and announced the expulsion in April. The KRS had already indicated that it did not want to change course but was still given time to respond.
The rule of law in Poland is under heavy pressure due to numerous measures taken by the Polish government. The Polish ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has implemented controversial reforms in recent years that have been condemned by the European Court of Justice, the European Union, the Council of Europe and the UN.
One of the tricky points is the disciplinary chamber that can punish judges for, among other things, unwelcome decisions, the application of European law and criticism of reforms. Poland must pay a million euros every day until the disciplinary court for judges is lifted, the European Court of Justice ruled this week.
The KRS has fully supported the attack by the government and parliament against the independent Judiciary. The ENCJ’s statutes state that judges have a duty to speak out when democracy and fundamental freedoms are under threat.
Poland is one of the founders of the European network. According to Henk Naves, chairman of the Dutch Council for the Judiciary and member of the board of the ENCJ, it was inevitable to remove the Polish Council from the network. “The Polish rule of law continues to crumble. But it does not feel like a victory. On the contrary, it is a low point that underlines how serious the situation in Poland is.”