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The European Union opened a rule-of-law procedure Monday against Poland over what it sees as flaws in Poland's Supreme Court law, intensifying a standoff that could eventually see Poland lose its EU voting rights.

The move comes a day before a new law takes effect that forces the early retirement of nearly 40 percent of the court's judges.
The law is the culmination of the ruling populist Law and Justice Party's efforts to put Poland's entire court system until its control, a plan it began nearly three years ago. For their part, party leaders claim they are reforming an inefficient. corrupt court system in the grip of an unaccountable caste of judges.

Critics see the law on Poland's Supreme Court as the most dramatic step in the party's takeover of the courts, giving the ruling party the power to stack the court with its supporters. One of court's jobs is to verify the results of elections, and critics say the new law marks a serious reversal for democracy.

The European Commission said Monday the measures in Poland's new court law "undermine the principle of judiciary independence." It also insisted that it "stands ready to continue the rule-of-law dialogue" despite starting the legal procedure.

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