EU Court Orders Poland to Suspend Judicial Overhaul

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s highest court confirmed an order forcing Poland to suspend a sweeping judicial overhaul that involves lowering the retirement age of Supreme Court judges.

“Poland must immediately suspend the application of the provisions of national legislation relating to the lowering of the retirement age for Supreme Court judges,” the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg said in a binding order on Monday.

The decision will stay in force pending a challenge by the European Commission against the controversial Polish law that lowers the retirement age for justices, which could force out nearly two-fifths of the top court in what critics have called a political “purge.”

In a sign of the urgency with which it views the case, the EU court on Oct. 19 gave a provisional order that the government “immediately suspend” the contested measures, without waiting for Poland’s submissions.

After the initial injunction, which coincided with a weaker-than-expected showing in local elections in part due to fears over relations with the EU, Poland’s ruling party backtracked and removed the contested retirement age provision. The bill was passed by both houses of parliament and was signed by the President Andrzej Duda to become law on Monday.

In its emergency injunction, the EU tribunal had demanded Poland reverse the changes that lowered the retirement age for jurists. The order was a result of an unprecedented lawsuit against an EU nation, which the bloc’s commission said was undermining the rule of law.

Warsaw’s U-turn came as ruling Law & Justice seeks to recover from a smaller-than-expected victory in October regional elections, where the party’s clash with the EU boosted support for opposition parties. It precedes a campaign season that includes elections to the European Parliament in May, and Polish general ballot in the fall.

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