WARSAW (Reuters) -European judges' associations challenged in European Union's General Court a decision to approve Poland's recovery and resilience plan, they said in a statement on Sunday.
Poland's access to 23.9 billion euros ($23.8 billion) in grants and 11.5 billion euros in cheap loans had been blocked due to a dispute over judicial independence.
But in June the European Commission said it was approving Poland's recovery plan, opening the way for Warsaw to get the cash. The move was approved by the Council of the EU, consisting of European economy and finance ministers.
Four European associations – the Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ), the European Association of Judges (EAJ), Rechters voor Rechters and Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés (MEDEL) – challenged the decision in the General Court of the EU.
"This application seeks the annulment of the Council’s decision ... on the grounds that the rule of law 'milestones' ... fall short of what is required to ensure the effective judicial protection and disregard the judgements of the Court of Justice of the EU on the matter," they said.
The associations said their legal action did not automatically suspend the effects of the Council's decision to approve the recovery plan but they said they might lodge interim measures seeking such a suspension.
A Polish government spokesman said the Council's decision remained valid and said the associations' legal action was "groundless".
The Commission has long been at loggerheads with Poland's ruling nationalists, accusing them of undercutting democracy. The Commission froze Warsaw's access to the recovery money until it reversed some changes they made to the country's judiciary.
Poland adopted a law in May that replaced a controversial disciplinary chamber for judges with a new body. The EU said this had not addressed all problematic issues, although it said an official assessment had been made yet.
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(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Edmund Blair)