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Top EU court tells Poland to stop Supreme Court overhaul, reinstate judges

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Top EU court tells Poland to stop Supreme Court overhaul, reinstate judges

Top EU court tells Poland to stop Supreme Court overhaul, reinstate judges
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Francois Lenoir(Reuters)
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By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's top court ordered Poland on Friday to suspend a law forcing some of country's Supreme Court judges into early retirement, and reinstate those who have already been dismissed.

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The injunction, issued by the European Court of Justice, marks a new phase in an investigation by EU authorities into a political reforms in Warsaw that Brussels argues are undermining democracy and judicial independence.

Poland's governing nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has ignored a series of EU warnings to backtrack on the reforms, pushed through the court law, effectively allowing it to hand-pick the country's top judges law from July.

The law lowers the retirement age of judges to 65 from 70. Since its implementation, over 20 Supreme Court judges -- around one-third of the total -- have been forced to quit.

In its interim ruling in a case brought by the Commission, the ECJ told Poland to "immediately" suspend application of the law, adding the order applied retroactively "to the judges of the Supreme Court concerned by those provisions."

A final judgment will come at a later date, the ECJ said.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the government would review the court's order.

"I can say that certainly after thorough analysis we will take a position," he told reporters on the sidelines of an EU-Asia summit in Brussels.

The EU investigation, brought under article 7 of the bloc's treaty, could in theory lead to Poland losing voting rights in the bloc.

But in practice any concrete penalty is unlikely as that would require unanimity among EU governments. Hungary, itself under an article 7 investigation, has repeatedly said it would not back any sanctions against Poland.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski, Editing by Gabriela Baczynska and John Stonestreet)

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