Poland has been given a month to back down in its bitter dispute with the European Commission over judicial reform or face court action, Brussels has warned.
The ultimatum comes after months of increasingly ill-tempered wrangling with European Union chiefs growing increasingly exasperated with Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and its refusal to soften its stance.
The Commission, along with many EU governments and rights advocates, insist changes to Poland’s judicial system undermines the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
Officials fear the reforms remove power from judges and hand it to ministers but Warsaw has rejected the allegations and insists it has fully explained its position and addressed the concerns raised by Brussels.
In its latest statement, Brussels said: “The Commission has carried out a thorough analysis of the response of the Polish authorities to the Letter of Formal Notice sent in July 2017 and finds that its concerns have not been adequately addressed and therefore has moved to the next stage of the infringement procedure.
“The Polish authorities have one month to take the necessary measures to comply.
“If the Polish authorities do not take appropriate measures the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.”
The Commission had earlier warned Warsaw it would face an even more severe disciplinary response if it tried to remove any judges from the country’s Supreme Court.
The running battle between Brussels and Warsaw highlights a widening rift between Eastern and Western Europe on a number of issues including migration and employment laws.
The East-West divide is expected to feature prominently in Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union speech.