The Polish government violated EU law when it changed the retirement ages of Polish judges, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday.
The Luxembourg-based court found in favour of a complaint brought by the European Commission against the Polish government that the reforms undermined the independence of the judiciary.
The decision, taken at a Grand Chamber meeting, is the result of an infringement action by the European Commission against Warsaw after the Polish government reduced the retirement age for judges to 60 years for women and 65 years for men. The previous retirement age was 67 for both male and female judges.
The CJEU found that Poland violated the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work and “concluded that the same law introduced directly discriminatory conditions based on sex, in particular as regards the time when interested parties may have effective access to pension benefits.”
The CJEU also found that the reforms open the door to political influence over the judiciary by giving the Minister of Justice the power to extend the period of activity for certain judges.
“Independence requires the court in question to exercise its functions in a fully autonomous and impartial manner,” the CJEU said.
In a statement following the ruling the Commission said: “This is an important ruling in support of the independence of the judiciary in Poland and beyond, as well as to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender. It states that the provisions of the Polish law which amended the law on the ordinary courts organisation are contrary to EU law.”
“We stand ready to support the Polish Government and to continue discussions on the resolution of all other outstanding issues related to the rule of law in Poland,” the statement continued.