Retirement age: Poland broke EU law with ruling on judges

The EU’s Court of Justice has ruled that Poland’s decision to lower judges’ retirement ages contravened EU law, in a new setback to the government’s bid to reform the judiciary.

Poland has already reversed the 2017 reforms, after an outcry at home as well as in Brussels.

Poland broke EU law on two fronts.

The Court said it was wrong to set a lower retirement age for women and to give a minister a final decision on which judges could stay in a job.

The Polish foreign ministry responded by saying the law had been changed. As the verdict “relates to an old situation” it said the complaint should have been withdrawn.
What happened to the law?

At the time, both male and female judges and prosecutors retired at 67 but Poland’s socially conservative government cut the age to 60 for women and 65 for men.

Poland’s government, run by the Law and Justice Party (PiS), argued it was trying to fight corruption and replace judges whose careers dated back to the communist era, but critics said it was seeking to appoint loyalists instead.

Some 100 judges were forced to retire before the law was withdrawn.

What the Court has said

The Luxembourg-based court said that under EU law judges and prosecutors were entitled to equal pay and treatment for equal work. It rejected a Polish argument that it was applying positive discrimination.

It also rejected a provision that gave the justice minister the power to decide whether particular judges could continue to practise once they had reached the new retirement age, because the reasons would have been “vague and unverifiable”.

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