Poland must implement steps to receive pandemic recovery funds from EU (Infographic)

Poland’s ruling right-wing majority is responsible for making sure that the milestones are met

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MICHAL DYJUK/Associated Press

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, center, arrive for a news conference at headquarters of Poland’s Power Grid in Konstancin Jeziorna, Poland, Thursday, June 2, 2022. The independence of Poland’s courts is at the heart of a dispute with the European Union, which has withheld billions of euros in pandemic recovery funds to Warsaw over the matter.

WARSAW, Poland — The European Commission chief said Thursday that Poland’s right-wing government is responsible for fully implementing the steps on judiciary independence that will make the disbursement of billions of euros in European Union pandemic recovery grants and loans for the country possible.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was in Warsaw to officially confirm the EU executive’s long-delayed approval of Poland’s pandemic recovery plan, which would enable conditional release of the funds.

“The approval of this plan is linked to clear commitment by Poland on the independence of the judiciary,” von der Leyen told reporters.

She stressed that Poland’s ruling right-wing majority “is responsible for making sure that the milestones (regarding the judiciary) are met.”

Von der Leyen met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda, who authored a law currently processed by Poland’s lawmakers that aims to remove the sticking points that held up the recovery plan’s approval for months.

The agreement on Poland’s recovery plan includes conditions that Poland needs to meet before any of the nearly $38.5 billion can be made available.

The EU  froze the funds because the Polish government’s political control of the judiciary. The disciplinary powers for judges, which the Polish government has used to punish critics, must be changed and given new rules, while sanctions applied to judges must be reviewed and lifted if deemed unjust.

“First payment will only be possible when the new law is in force” and all other conditions are met,” von der Leyen said. “We are not at the end of the road for the rule of law in Poland.”

We are not at the end of the road for the rule of law in Poland.”

— Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Poland’s lawmakers are still working on changing Supreme Court regulations to abolish the controversial Disciplinary Chamber, but will replace it with another body  for professional accountability. 

The commission’s approval must be confirmed by the other 26 European Union member states within four weeks.  The ruling would see the nationalist government in Warsaw eventually gain access to $25.4 billion in grants and $11.7 billion in loans.

The funds seek to enable Poland to emerge stronger from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and make progress with its green and digital transitions and  to strengthen its growth potential and economic and social resilience, the Commission said.

 The commission reached  its decision Wednesday,  as some European Parliament lawmakers expressed deep unease about democratic backsliding in Poland.

 It will still be months before Poland can make its first request for the pandemic funds.

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