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Europe

Top EU lawyer says Poland is pressuring lawyers illegally

2 minute read

European Union and Polish flags flutter at the Orlen refinery in Mazeikiai, Lithuania April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

  • Opinion by top EU court adviser is latest clash with Poland
  • Polish government describes it as 'encouragement to anarchy'

WARSAW, June 17 (Reuters) - Polish government pressure on lawyers is incompatible with EU law, an adviser to the European Union's top court said on Thursday in an opinion that follows earlier condemnation of Warsaw by the court for interfering in the judiciary.

The eurosceptic ruling coalition in Poland has been at odds with the European Union's central authorities over changes it has been introducing to the appointment and removal of judges since it took power in late 2015.

The latest case concerns the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court created by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party.

The chamber gave the justice minister the right to appeal against a Bar Association disciplinary panel decision to discontinue proceedings against the lawyer for one of the PiS's main political opponents, Donald Tusk.

The advocate general of the European Court of Justice said such appeals may allow the government to instigate or perpetuate disciplinary proceedings against members of the bar, interfering with their ability to provide legal services, a core EU right.

Any practice which impairs the effectiveness of EU law is incompatible with European rules, he said.

"National courts must, if necessary, disregard the rulings of a higher court if it considers that they are not consistent with EU law," the advocate general, Michal Bobek, added.

Deputy Justice minister Sebastian Kaleta called his statement an "encouragement to anarchy", accusing the court of using double standards in cases regarding Poland.

The EU's top court usually, though not always, follows the opinion of the advocate general in its rulings.

The Luxembourg-based ECJ has already ruled to suspend the disciplinary chamber pending a final ruling on whether it offers sufficient guarantees of judicial independence. However, the chamber has continued to work despite the ECJ ruling.

Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; editing by Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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