BRUSSELS -- The European Commission said on Tuesday that the daily fines imposed on EU member country Poland for not complying with an order to suspend a disciplinary mechanism for judges have now piled up to more than 160 million euros.
The EU and Poland have been at odds for years over issues linked to the respect of democratic standards and the separation of powers in the eastern country.
Last year, the 27-nation bloc’s top court fined Poland one million euros ($1.06 million) a day to prevent what it called “serious and irreparable harm” to the EU’s legal order and values. The EU’s executive commission had requested the penalty until Warsaw acts to improve the functioning of the Polish Supreme Court and suspends new laws deemed to undermine judicial independence.
“And we are now with a total amount of more than 160 million euros ($168.85) of such a fine until a possible positive evolution in Poland," Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in an address to the European Parliament.
According to media reports in Poland, the right-wing Polish government still refuses to pay.
The commission said serious concerns remain about the respect for rule of law in the country despite plans by President Andrzej Duda to abolish the legal chamber at the heart of the dispute, the so-called Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court.
The chamber has the power to suspend judges whose rulings displease the ruling authorities. The European Court of Justice said last year that it violated EU laws and ordered its temporary suspension pending a verdict.
Duda has proposed amending the law on the Supreme Court and closing the controversial chamber. He said his proposal was aimed at helping Poland end its conflict with the European Commission.
“The fact that there seems to be a momentum towards reforming the disciplinary regime for judges in Poland is a positive step," Reynders said. “Yet, what will eventually matter is the extent to which the legislation ... will address the requirements set out by the Court of Justice."
In recent years, the Polish government has repeatedly clashed with the EU, which says the changes Warsaw has made to Poland’s justice system undermine the principles of democracy and the rule of law.