France, Germany issue 'urgent warning' on Poland judicial crisis

"Since July 3 and the implementation of the new retirement regime for Supreme Court judges, the situation has become more urgent than ever," said the statement, signed by Germany's European Affairs Minister Michael Roth (seen) and his French counterpart

France and Germany warned Tuesday that the crisis over Poland's controversial judicial reforms is "more urgent than ever", saying months of talks between Warsaw and the EU had made little progress.

Brussels launched unprecedented disciplinary proceedings against Poland in December over "systemic threats" to the rule of law, and last month stepped up its legal threats over Warsaw's contentious Supreme Court reforms.

The row is part of a bitter, long-running confrontation with Poland's right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government, which says it needs to overhaul a judicial system still marked by the communist era.

Paris and Berlin gave a joint statement to a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels saying talks had "not led to substantial progress regarding the concerns about the Polish judicial reforms".

"On the contrary, since July 3 and the implementation of the new retirement regime for Supreme Court judges, the situation has become more urgent than ever," said the statement, signed by Germany's European Affairs Minister Michael Roth and his French counterpart Nathalie Loiseau.

"We hope that Poland acts constructively and does not take actions which cannot be changed afterwards. Consequently, it is only logical that we continue the process."

EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans gave a similarly downbeat assessment after hearing the Polish minister speak, saying "concerns and worries have increased".

"The situation in Poland has not improved. The reactions the commission has received from the Polish government do not offer any openings in terms of compliance with what the commission had put on the table," Timmermans said.

Poland last week rejected EU criticism of its Supreme Court reforms, challenging Brussels to take its case to the bloc's top court, after the European Commission in August gave Warsaw a month to review a law forcing the court's judges to retire at 65.

Critics argue the reform puts the judicial system under government control and so threatens democracy in the former communist state.

The retirement law came into effect in July and lowers the pension age of judges from 70 to 65, affecting 27 of the Supreme Court's 73 sitting judges including chief justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, who has refused to step down, dubbing the measure a "purge" that breaches her constitutionally guaranteed six-year term ending in 2020.