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EU sues Poland over new measures for disciplining judges

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive on Thursday filed a case at the bloc’s top court against Poland’s ruling nationalists over new measures they have introduced for disciplining judges, which the EU says violates the principle of judicial independence.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is expected to win a second term of office in nationwide elections in Poland on Sunday. The party remains popular for expanding social spending and for its combative rhetoric juxtaposing national pride with perceived threats from the EU, Germany, migrants, gay people and others.

The alarm sounded by the EU, rights groups and opposition parties at home that PiS is weakening democracy in the formerly communist country by putting media, the courts and non-governmental groups under more direct state control have done little to dent the party’s popularity among its core voters.

PiS has strong support in rural areas and among the less well-off as well as among devout Catholics with conservative social values.

Nevertheless, the European Commission on Thursday took another formal step in its campaign against the party’s overhaul of the judiciary, requesting an expedited procedure at the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.

The Commission said in a statement that it was acting “on the grounds that the new disciplinary regime undermines the judicial independence of Polish judges and does not ensure the necessary guarantees to protect judges from political control.”

Poland has several other such court cases running over rule of law concerns, migration and climate change – all prominent areas where PiS has clashed with the EU. More such feuds are expected should the party secure another four-year term in government.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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