Recently, a judge in Irish High Court refused to extradite a suspected criminal to Poland due to concerns over the integrity of the Polish justice system.
In time, this landmark decision could not only lead to a showdown between the Polish government and the European Court of Justice (ECJ), but it could also herald the undermining of the ‘mutual trust’ upon which the European Arrest Warrant system is based. As Laurent Pech, Professor of European Law at Middlesex University London, commented to the Guardian: “If the [ECJ] stops recognising Polish courts as courts within the meaning of EU law, this could then leave the European commission no choice but to suspend EU funding to Poland.”
In Poland, serious problems started to emerge with the judiciary when the country’s ruling Law and Justice Party pushed through legislation giving parliament direct control of the appointment body that appoints judges. Another cause for concern is the fact that the Polish minister of justice now also acts as Poland’s prosecutor-general. The two roles have been merged.
While 40% of Polish Supreme Court judges have been forced to take early retirement, the President of Poland’s Presidential Court has gone so far as to claim that the country is now ‘on the road to autocracy’.
As these problems continue to mount across numerous countries, so the principles of equality and reciprocity upon which the EAW system is built start to look increasingly fragile and unworkable.