BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is referring Poland to Europe's top court over long-standing concerns about respect for the rule of law and the independence of the country's Supreme Court judges, EU officials said Wednesday.

The bloc's executive commission had previously warned Poland that it might go to the European Court of Justice if the government did not take action to fix the problems with the Polish law on judicial power.

“It's a crucial step in the infraction procedure," EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said of the court referral.

The European Commission considers Poland in violation of EU law for allowing the country's Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to make decisions which have a direct impact on judges and the way they do their jobs. It says the chamber’s independence and impartiality are not guaranteed.

A series of legislative acts in late 2019 governs the way Poland’s justice system operates. The laws took effect in February 2020. The European Commission started infringement proceedings against the government in Warsaw in April, and took further steps in October and December.

The EU is concerned about cases involving the lifting of judges’ immunity to bring criminal proceedings against them, moves to temporarily suspend them and to reduce their salaries. The Supreme Court disciplinary chamber can also rule on labor law, social security and the retirement of judges.