EU opens new legal case against Poland over muzzling judges

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive on Wednesday started a new legal case against the nationalist Polish government for muzzling judges in the bloc’s largest ex-communist country.

The EU has long accused the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party of undermining Polish democracy by increasing direct state control over the courts, media and civic society.

The European Commission said it was giving Poland two months to address its concerns about a law introduced earlier this year that would punish judges who criticise the government’s reforms of the judicial system.

“There are clear risks that the provisions regarding the disciplinary regime against judges can be used for political control of the content of judicial decisions,” said Vera Jourova, the Czech member of the executive Commission who is responsible for upholding the EU’s democratic values.

“This is a European issue because Polish courts apply European law. Judges from other countries must trust that Polish judges act independently. This mutual trust is the foundation of our single market,” she said.

Should Warsaw refuse to budge, the Commission would sue it in the EU’s top tribunal, which could eventually lead to hefty fines as well as a court order telling the Polish government to change tack.

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