European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that Poland still does not meet the rule of law conditions needed to receive EU funds for post-pandemic reconstruction.
Poland and the Commission have been at a standoff for months over releasing €36 billion in loans and grants from the EU’s coronavirus recovery program. The money was originally due to be approved in July but was held up over fears that Warsaw’s sweeping changes to the judiciary violate EU democratic standards.
For the funds to be released, said von der Leyen, Poland’s nationalist party government for Law and Justice still had to meet three criteria set out in decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU.
“We’re not there yet, just to clarify. We’re close, but we’re not there yet,” she replied to questions from MEPs.
The first criterion Poland must meet is the dissolution of a controversial judicial disciplinary body in the country’s Supreme Court, which has long been the subject of disputes between Brussels and Warsaw. The second criterion is the reform of a disciplinary regime for judges, the third is the reinstatement of unlawfully dismissed judges, von der Leyen explained to the deputies.
Poland is already being fined €1m a day for refusing to freeze the work of the newly created disciplinary body until the bloc’s top court rules on whether it complies with EU law.
There is some evidence of flexibility from Warsaw, where parliament is working on a bill proposed by President Andrzej Duda that would meet some, but not all, of the EU’s demands. However, it is not approved yet.
“We want this reform to be implemented, and the best way to implement this reform is through legislation that has passed Parliament,” von der Leyen said. If the law serves its purpose and meets the criteria, the funds can be disbursed, she added.
On Monday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he did not expect an agreement on the release of EU funds this month but “hoped” that an agreement could be reached with the Commission in the coming weeks.
Poland has pleaded for flexibility on the part of the EU and says the country should get a positive hearing thanks to the reception of more than 2 million refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
But the Commission refuses to link the two issues.
Von der Leyen will be in Warsaw on Saturday to attend a Stand Up For Ukraine event raising funds for Ukrainian refugees.
Zosia Wanat contributed to the coverage.
https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-not-there-yet-reform-receive-eu-recovery-funds-vdl/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Poland 'not quite there yet' in tracing judicial reforms to get EU funds - POLITICO