On 17th September 2018, the ENCJ General Assembly gathered in Bucharest to discuss the position of the Polish National Judicial Council, the KRS, in the ENCJ.
It is a condition of ENCJ membership, that institutions are independent of the executive and legislature and ensure the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of justice.
The ENCJ became concerned that as a result of the recent reforms in Poland the KRS no longer fulfilled this requirement. As a result, a visit to Poland took place in June 2018 in order to look into the matter. The concerns however remained and accordingly the Board proposed the suspension of the Membership of the KRS. The KRS attended the meeting and stated its position. The General Assembly considered the proposal and resolved to suspend the membership of the KRS.
Therefore, the KRS is, for the time being, stripped of its voting rights and excluded from participation in ENCJ activities. The ENCJ remains however committed to staying in contact with the KRS. The ENCJ will continue to monitor the situation and is looking forward to the time when the KRS meets the requirements of the ENCJ and can as a result be welcomed back as active Member to the ENCJ. Meanwhile, the ENCJ is prepared to offer its assistance and guidance to the KRS in setting out compliance with the European Standards for Councils for the Judiciary.
It was felt that it was a very sad day, as the KRS was one of the founding fathers of the network and their representatives to the network were very much respected and contributed highly to the work of the network, both in the Board and in the various ENCJ projects over many years.
The extreme circumstances of this particular case have led to the decision just taken. These circumstances were set out in the paper of the Executive Board which was published on 16 August 2018.
The ENCJ aims to improve cooperation between, and good mutual understanding amongst, the Councils for the Judiciary and the members of the Judiciary of the European Union Member States. This objective brings with it a common responsibility to uphold the fundament of our common European legal order, especially the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary within that order. Member States are free to organise their judicial systems in a way that they see fit, but there are some minimum standards that have to be complied with.