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Commission asks European court to fine Poland over attack on judicial independence

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Věra Jourová attends commemoration of the 82nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War

The European Commission has asked the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) to impose a fine on Poland for its failure to enact the interim ruling by the court calling on Poland to suspend actions which undermine the independence of the judiciary.

“I have always said that the Commission will not hesitate to take all the necessary measures to ensure the full application of EU law,” said Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders. “In July, the Court of Justice rendered two key rulings to protect judicial independence in Poland. It is essential that Poland fully complies with these rulings. That is why the Commission, as Guardian of the Treaties, is taking action today.”

Poland was given a deadline of 16 August to implement the EU Court’s decision on interim measures (14 July), calling for the suspension of Poland's Disciplinary Chamber. Poland sent a response to the Commission, but it has been deemed to be inadequate. The Commission is asking the Court to impose a daily penalty payment on Poland for as long as Polish authorities fail to act. Officials have been reluctant to estimate how large the fine will be, but said that it should reflect the gravity of the case, how the failure to act impacts judges on the ground and the duration of non-compliance. However, they are leaving this decision on how much for the court to decide. 

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It is unusual for the Commission to demand action on the basis of an interim judgement (Article 279). The Commission has only done this on three occasions. It is justified when irreversible damage could occur without immediate action, and is only used in the most urgent and serious cases. 

The Commission has also decided to send a ‘letter of formal notice’ to Poland, for not taking the necessary measures to comply fully with the judgment of the Court of Justice (of 15 July 2021) finding that Polish law on the disciplinary regime against judges is not compatible with EU law.

In its response to the Commission (16 August) Poland wrote that it intended to dismantle the disciplinary chamber, however there was no information about how and when this would be done. There was also no information on what would constitute a disciplinary offence in future, or the restrictions that could be placed on judges who wanted to put a legal question on EU law to the CJEU. The letter gives the Polish authorities the “opportunity” to explain themselves more fully.  Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová said: “The rulings of the European Court of Justice must be respected across the EU. Today, we are taking next steps to address that situation, and we remain ready to work with Polish authorities to find solutions.”

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Today’s actions by the Commission follow a recent visit to Poland by Vice President Jourová at the end of August when she met with Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Prime Minister, and Marcin Wiącek, Polish Ombudsman among others. The Polish justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro has accused the EU of engaging in hybrid warfare with Poland and described today’s decision as an act of aggression against Poland. 

The Polish government has also brought into question the primacy of EU law over national law, one of the most  fundamental principles of European law that was established in European court judgements forty years before Poland joined the EU. A decision on this latest challenge will be made on 22 September. 

Photo: Věra Jourová attends commemoration of the 82nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War in Gdansk © European Union, 2021

Poland

'The Informal Case' of Ukrainian businessman Yevgeny Dzyuba

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On 18 March 2020, Yevgeny Dzyuba, a businessman wanted by the Ukrainian branch of Interpol, was detained at the Warsaw airport. He is currently under arrest in Poland. Our country is located in the heart of Central Europe, hence the special importance of the work performed by the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) in Poland. The NCB is a foundation for ensuring both national and regional security. It is a most important national platform that links the Polish police with international law enforcement agencies and makes it possible to secure the exchange of information on criminal records and to conduct international police investigations.

Yevgeny Dzyuba

It is no secret that over the past few years, our neighbors – who are members of the Interpol system, too – have been requesting the extradition of their citizens (suspected of committing crimes) more and more often. While doing that, however, they sometimes seem to forget that international laws - particularly, those that govern the joint work of the International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, and the law enforcement agencies that are its subsidiaries - are the same for everyone.

Interpol conducts searches for persons suspected of committing international crimes: this also includes operational-search activities carried out outside the territory of the state where the crime was committed. If an operation is successful, the criminal is detained and placed in custody; the negotiations on the criminal's extradition to the state of their citizenship or to the state where the crime was committed are conducted via diplomatic and similar channels.      The court of the country in which a foreign citizen is detained on suspicion of commiting a crime would, first of all, carefully investigate the reason for them being put on the wanted list, request all the necessary documents, and make its verdict only after this procedure is over.

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Unfortunately, over the past few years, the international press has increasingly interfered with the extradition of citizens of other countries from Poland - the media would actively accuse Polish criminal justice agencies of alleged bias or unwillingness to extradite a criminal. Let us note that the fact of someone being wanted by Interpol does not mean they will be sentenced; a person who is under suspicion is not a criminal. European legislation is pre-traditional, objective and transparent - the court is at the head of the Law, the other parties (enjoying absolutely the same rights) being the prosecution and the defense. The parties to the process would submit their written evidence to the court in advance, so that the judge has the opportunity to study the opinion of the participants and ask only clarifying questions at the court session. This excludes any kind of formal or biased attitude of which foreign newspapers sometimes try to accuse the Polish judiciary system. This is confirmed by the fact that a number of international human rights organizations highly appreciate it that even in the case of an extradition decision, the Polish Ministry of Justice does not ignore the defendant. The Ministry always requests its foreign colleagues for the information about the extradited person's state, willing to protect them from any illegal actions that they might endure when in custody and that may be associated with political and other kind of persecution.

The story of Mr. Dzyuba differs from many other cases of foreigners who were lawfully detained and handed over to criminal justice agencies in their countries. For example, it turned out that a citizen of Ukraine detained in June of this year in the city of Kostrzyn nad Odrą in Lubusz Voivodeship, had been hiding under nine different surnames (being on the wanted list of 190 countries as the Interpol "red card" holder - on suspicion of commiting murder and theft of property in Ukraine). Dzyuba did not hide or change his name at all; moreover, within the six months before his arrest, he freely visited various countries with the purpose of treating chronic diseases - and presented his own passport while traveling. Diagnosed with multiple burns (60-80% of the surface) of arms, legs and torso (followed by a number of medical complications), almost always accompanied by his two minor children and an elderly mother (who are dependent on him) whom he had to have relocated from the city of Donetsk, Mr. Dzyuba hardly looks like a professional criminal in hiding. As follows from the documents provided by his lawyers, by performing the aforesaid actions he exercised his constitutional right to freedom of movement. All changes to the place of his registration and residence were duly recorded in accordance with the established procedure. According to the law of Ukraine, staying abroad in itself cannot indicate the fact of evading the investigation and hiding from the pre-trial investigation agencies. The documents provided by the lawyers also confirmed that Dzyuba had not been properly notified about him falling under suspicion and being included in the wanted list (this fact was proved). At the same time, there is a well-documented fact that there was a long-lasting criminal proceeding that actually carried out the investigation beyond the procedural deadlines. The documents presented to the Polish court by Dzyuba's representatives state that, in line with Paragraph 10 Part 1 Article 284 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, an investigator, an inquirer and a prosecutor must officially end criminal proceedings once the period of pre-trial investigation defined by Article 219 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine has ended - and this period ended in November 2017. Nevertheless, five years later (which is far beyond the law-specified maximum time limits of the pre-trial investigation), a Report on Suspicion of Committing a Criminal Offense under Part 5 Article 191 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine was drawn up with regard to Yevgeny Dzyuba. Therefore, the specified Report on Suspicion of Committing Criminal Offenses by him was drawn up under a non-existent criminal proceeding. Moreover, the Criminal Proceeding with the number indicated in the Report has never existed and does not exist. Besides, the representatives of Ukraine are not in a hurry to provide documents on Yevgeny Dzyuba's case - they explain the delay by the heavy workload and need to perform daily work.

Against the background of everything connected with international crime and its representatives who get to Poland, the above-listed facts look, to put it mildly, like a strange reason for extradition. A Polish writer Stefan Garczynski said: "Facts are the sand that grinds in the gears of theory." Of course, from the formal procedure point of view, all the actions that are provided for by international law and Interpol in relation to the Ukrainian citizen Dzyuba in the territory of Poland have been carried out accordingly. However, no one should fall into the gears of an omni-grinding formal machine - and it does not matter what country they are in at that moment. Moreover, when the movement of this machine is thwarted by the "sand of indisputable facts"; besides, it should be added that, knowing about Yevgeny Dzyuba's illness, his family and colleagues secured the required bail amount that would give him the opportunity to stay under house arrest in Warsaw, next to his family, and not in prison.

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The uniqueness of Interpol lies in the principle of non-interference in political, military, religious and racial affairs laid down in its charter. By strictly observing these obligations, the organization maintains the status of a purely professional international police community. This allows the law enforcement agencies of all member countries to interact even in the absence of diplomatic relations between them. At the same time, the main "weapon" of Interpol is its information resources. The telecommunications system used in Interpol allows law enforcement officers of the organization's member countries to exchange operational information and receive the needed data from their foreign colleagues within the shortest possible time. All this contributes to the fact that each case can be considered objectively and not formally, and, if necessary, taken under control by the Interpol General Secretariate and its Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

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European Commission

Poland ordered to pay the European Commission half a million euro daily penalty over Turów mine

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The European Court has placed a daily fine of €500,000 on Poland to be paid to the European Commission over its failure to respect an order from 21 May to stop extraction activities at Turów open-cast lignite mine, writes Catherine Feore.

The mine is located in Poland, but is close to the Czech and German borders. It was granted a concession to operate in 1994. On 20 March 2020, the Polish climate minister granted permission for an extension to lignite mining until 2026. The Czech Republic referred the matter to the European Commission and on 17 December 2020, the Commission issued a reasoned opinion in which it criticized Poland for several breaches of EU law. In particular, the Commission considered that, by adopting a measure allowing a six-year extension without carrying out an environmental impact assessment, Poland had breached EU law. 

The Czech Republic asked the court to make an interim decision, pending the final  judgment of the Court, which it granted. However, since the Polish authorities failed to comply with its obligations under that order, the Czech Republic, on 7 June 2021, made an application seeking that Poland be ordered to pay a daily penalty payment of €5,000,000 to the EU budget for failure to fulfil its obligations. 

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Today (20 September) the court rejected an application by Poland to overturn the interim measures and ordered Poland to pay the Commission a penalty payment of €500,000 per day, one tenth of what was requested by the Czech Republic. The Court said that they were not bound by the amount proposed by the Czech Republic and thought the lower figure would be adequate to encourage Poland “to put an end to its failure to fulfil its obligations under the interim order”.

Poland claimed that the cessation of lignite mining activities in the Turów mine could cause an interruption in the distribution of heating and drinking water in the territories of Bogatynia (Poland) and Zgorzelec (Poland), which threatens the health of the inhabitants of those territories. The court found that Poland had not sufficiently substantiated that this represented a genuine risk.

Given Poland’s failure to comply with the interim order, the Court found that it had no choice but to impose a fine. The CJEU has underlined that it is very rare that a member state brings an action for failure to fulfil obligations against another member state, this is the ninth such action in the history of the Court.

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Education

GSOM SPbU and Kozminski University signed an agreement on their first double degree programme

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Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg University (GSOM SPbU) and Kozminski University (KU) are launching their first joint double degree program in Corporate Finance and Accounting. The new double degree program will incorporate qualified students of Master in Corporate Finance (MCF) program at GSOM and students of Master in Finance and Accounting at KU. The selection of students for the new double degree programme will commence in fall semester 2021, the studies will start in academic year 2022/2023.

As part of a new agreement, students will spend their three and four semesters at host institutions, and candidates, who successfully complete all program requirements of GSOM and KU will get Master degree diplomas from both institutions.

"The future belongs to partnerships, alliances and collaborations: it helps to look at goals from different angles, quickly respond to changes and create relevant and demanded products. In the new academic year, together with Kozminski University, we are launching a double degree program within the Master in Corporate Finance program: we will exchange experiences, compare our aims and results, and provide students from both sides with comprehensive knowledge that can be applied anywhere in the world. Kozminski University and GSOM SPbU are long-standing academic partners, our relationship has been tested over the years and dozens of exchange students. I am confident that the new level of co-operation will bring business schools closer together and make our Master programs more interesting and practice-oriented," said Konstantin Krotov, executive director of GSOM SPbU.

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Since 2013, GSOM SPbU Bachelor and Master students have been participating in exchange programs, and faculty and staff of the Business School — in academic exchange programs with Kozminski University.

"Close co-operation with the oldest university in Russia — Saint Petersburg University and GSOM SPbU was recently crowned with a double degree on the Master in Finance and Accounting program. It is a natural step in intensifying our top students’ exchange opportunities by giving them access to one of the biggest markets. Thus, KU continues to strengthen its position as a global bridge for business opportunities and intercultural understanding," said Franjo Mlinaric, Ph.D., leader of the Master in Finance & Accounting Programme at KU.

Starting from 2022, four MCF students will be able to pursue their studies within the Master in Finance and Accounting program at one of the leading business schools in Poland. Kozminski University has triple crown accreditation as well as ACCA and CFA accreditations. Kozminski University's Finance and Accounting program is ranked the 21st position in the Financial Times (FT) ranking among the world's 55 best Master programs in corporate finance.

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The Master in Corporate Finance program at GSOM SPbU is also ACCA accredited. GSOM SPbU has been ranked among the world's leading programs and business schools for many years in a row according to the international business newspaper Financial Times. In 2020, GSOM SPbU ranked 41st in the Financial Times Masters in Management ranking, and 51st in the Financial Times European Business School ranking. The GSOM SPbU Executive MBA program entered the top 100 world programs for the first time and took 93rd position in the Financial Times Executive MBA Ranking 2020.

GSOM SPbU is a leading Russian Business School. It was established in 1993 at St Petersburg University, which is one of the oldest classical universities, and the largest centre of science, education and culture in Russia. Today GSOM SPbU is the only Russian Business School that is included in the top-100 best European Schools in the Financial Times ranking and has two prestigious international accreditations: AMBA and EQUIS. The GSOM Advisory Board includes leaders from business, government and the international academic community.

Kozminski University was founded in 1993. It is one of the oldest non-public higher education institutions in Poland. The undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students and the participants of postgraduate and MBA programs studying at KU make up a population of 9,000. The population of KU graduates is currently over 60,000. Kozminski University is a business-oriented higher education institution offering a broad range of education programs, holding full academic rights, and considered to be the best business school in Central and Eastern Europe according to the Financial Times ranking. In 2021 Kozminski University was ranked 21st in the Global Masters in Finance Ranking published by Financial Times. It is the only university ranked from Poland and Central and Eastern Europe.

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