“We breathe a certain sigh of relief”, acknowledges judge Igor Tuleya, an activist for judicial independence in Poland, “the fact that the Polish government has carried out a generous reception of Ukrainian refugees was softening the European authorities and we feared that they would not continue to apply pressure, but finally we have the parliamentary decision and it is a very important step.”

This is his first reaction after the Polish Parliament last night abolished the disciplinary system of the judiciary, a key point of the reform of the judicial system questioned by the European Union for undermining the independence of judges. The abolition of this mechanism was one of the three conditions imposed by the European Commission to deliver to Poland the Post-pandemic Economic Recovery Fund, of some 35,000 million euros.

Last October, in addition, Poland was fined one million euros per day for failing to comply with a sentence of a European court that forced the suspension of the disciplinary mechanism. Finally, the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, proposed to abolish this system in the hope of putting an end to the dispute with Brussels and the majority of the votes in favor of the elimination, which still has to be approved by the Senate, has had the votes of the conservatives in power, the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

The centrist opposition and the magistrates’ organizations considered that the government’s backlash does not allay concerns about the politicization of the judicial system. The vote “does not meet all the conditions of the European Commission,” denounces opposition deputy Barbara Dolniak, for whom the vote has been a mere “hoax.” For the judges, the measure is late. “Many of us have lost our jobs and the parliamentary vote does not establish at all that we will get it back. We have been disappointed for many months, because any decision that is made takes too long. Because we are fighting to survive: Polish lawyers, Polish judges, Polish citizens… and now all that fighting may be crushed by the parliamentary decision, but it is still a step in the right direction,” says Tuleya.

In a first gesture of yielding to the demands of the European Commission, the Polish Supreme Court annulled on May 23 the suspension of one of the six judges prosecuted for criticizing the justice reforms promoted by the government. The lifting of this suspension was one of the three conditions of the EU to unlock the funds of the European recovery plan. The other two are this reform of the disciplinary system and the liquidation of the disciplinary chamber, not recognized by the European courts.