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#Poland ordered to suspend activities of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court with immediate effect

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The EU’s Court of Justice has ordered Poland to immediately suspend the application of the powers of its ‘Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court’, writes Catherine Feore.

The Court rejected Polish claims that the European Commission’s case was inadmissible; while acknowledging that the organisation of justice is an EU member states responsibility, the Court stated that EU states are required to comply with their obligations deriving from EU law, in particular the principle of the independence of the judiciary. The interim measures agree today are “to avoid serious and irreparable harm to the interests of the EU.”

The European Commission was concerned that without interim relief the mere prospect that judges may be subject to disciplinary proceedings was likely to affect their own independence and working. This in turn would cause serious damage to the rights which individuals derive from EU law and values, in particular the rule of law.

The Commission reserved the right to seek the payment of a fine if it becomes apparent from the information from Poland that it has not complied in full with the interim measures ordered following its request for interim relief.

Background 

In 2017, Poland adopted the new disciplinary regime for judges of the Sąd Najwyższy (Supreme Court, Poland) and its ordinary courts. Specifically, under that legislative reform, a new Disciplinary Chamber was created within the Supreme Court. The jurisdiction of the court covers, among other things, disciplinary cases concerning judges of the Supreme Court and, on appeal, those concerning judges of the ordinary courts. 

The National Council of the Judiciary, ‘the KRS’, is selected by elected members of the Polish Parliament and is not considered to meet European standards of independence. Despite earlier judgments that the disciplinary court cannot be regarded as an independent  tribunal for the purposes of either EU law or Polish law, the court continued to perform its judicial functions. 

On  23 January 2020, the Commission requested the Court of Justice, an immediate ruling (interim relief, until a final judgement): (1) to suspend the application of its jurisdiction in disciplinary cases concerning judges; (2) to refrain from referring cases pending before the disciplinary court; and (3) to communicate to the Commission, at the latest one month after notification of the order of the Court of Justice imposing the requested interim measures, all the measures that it has adopted in order comply in full with that order.

Afghanistan

2020 Afghanistan Conference: Sustainable peace, anti-corruption and aid effectiveness on the agenda

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The 2020 Afghanistan Conference kicks begins today (23 November) with the EU co-organizing and participating in number of events taking place ahead of tomorrow's (24 November) plenary session. Crisis Management Commissioner  Janez Lenarčič will co-chair, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan Mohammad Haneef Atmar an event on sustainable peace (livestream available), with a focus on promoting human rights and empowering women, and also on refugees and returnees.

International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen will deliver a speech at an event on anti-corruption and good governance, and in doing so will emphasize the EU's expectation that the Afghan government delivers on its reform agenda. EU officials will also participate in a third side event taking place ahead of the conference, on aid effectiveness.

Tomorrow, EU High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell will deliver a speech at the opening session of the conference, when he will outline the EU's position on the ongoing intra-Afghan peace negotiations, as well as the conditions for the EU's support, which were presented in a recent paper co-authored with key international donors.

Later, Commissioner Urpilainen will deliver the EU's financial assistance pledge at the conference. Both interventions will be available on EbS. More information on EU-Afghanistan relations is available in a dedicated factsheet and on the website of the EU Delegation in Kabul.

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EU

Stop violence against women: Statement by the European Commission and the High Representative

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Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, the European Commission and High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell (pictured) issued the following statement: “Violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights, and has no place in the European Union, or anywhere else in the world. The scale of the problem remains alarming: one in three women in the European Union have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Violence against women exists in every country, culture and community.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has shown once more that for some women not even their home is a safe place. Change is possible, but it requires action, commitment and determination. The EU is committed to continue to work tirelessly with its partners to investigate and punish acts of violence, ensure support for victims, and at the same time to address the root causes and reinforce the legal framework.

"Through our Spotlight Initiative we are already fighting violence against women and girls, in 26 countries across the globe. This week we will present a new Action Plan on gender equality and women and girl's empowerment in our external actions. We also call on member states to ratify the Istanbul Convention - the first legally binding instrument at the international level to combat violence against women and domestic violence. Our goal is very clear: to end all forms of violence against women and girls. We owe it to all the victims.”

The full statement and the factsheet are available online.

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coronavirus

Coronavirus: Commission to provide 200 disinfection robots to European hospitals

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As part of its continued efforts to tackle the spread of coronavirus and provide member states with necessary equipment, the Commission launched the purchase of 200 disinfection robots that will be delivered to hospitals across Europe. Overall, a dedicated budget of up to €12 million is available from the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI). Hospitals from most Member States expressed a need and interest in receiving these robots, which can disinfect standard patient rooms, using ultraviolet light, in as quickly as 15 minutes, and thus help prevent and reduce the spread of the virus. The process is controlled by an operator, who will be located outside of the space to be disinfected, in order to avoid any exposure to the UV light.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said: “Developing technologies can set up forces of change and we see a good example of this in the disinfection robots. I welcome this action to help our hospitals in Europe reduce the risk of infection – an important step in containing the spread of coronavirus.” Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, added: “Europe has remained resilient and solidary during the current crisis. From repatriating EU citizens stranded abroad to increasing the production of masks and ensuring that medical equipment reaches those who need it within the single market, we are acting to protect our citizens. Now we are deploying disinfection robots in hospitals so that our citizens can benefit from this potentially life-saving technology.”

The robots are expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

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