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EU Launches Legal Action Against Poland Over Controversial Judiciary Reform

Polish President Andrzej Duda (file photo)

The European Union says it will launch legal action against Poland over controversial judiciary reforms that critics say could give the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) too much influence over the courts.

In a statement on July 26, the European Commission said it was targeting a law signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda a day earlier that allows the justice minister -- who is also the prosecutor-general -- to name the heads of all lower courts.

Duda pleased protesters in Poland by vetoing controversial legislation that would have given the justice minister the power to sack all Supreme Court judges and handpick their replacements.

The European Commission said it was launching an "infringement proceeding against Poland for breaches of EU law" in connection with the legislation he did sign.

The EU took issue with the law because it introduced different retirement ages for female and male judges, which is a breach of EU antidiscrimination laws.

The commission sent a list of recommendations to Poland on July 26 and said it had one month to respond.

The statement said if Poland decides to pass reforms allowing the dismissal of Supreme Court judges, the EU would launch action under Article 7 of the EU treaty, which could lead to the suspension of Poland's voting rights in the bloc.

"In this past week, some things have changed in Poland -- and some things have not," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said.

"The commission's recommendation asks the Polish authorities not to take any measure to dismiss or force the retirement of Supreme Court judges," he said. "If such a measure is taken, the commission is ready to immediately trigger the Article 7 procedure."

With reporting by RFE/RL Correspondent Rikard Jozwiak and dpa