AP

Poland’s judicial policy threatens payments from EU budget

Oct 17, 2022, 8:17 PM | Updated: Oct 18, 2022, 9:04 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s right-wing government needs to show that it has fulfilled all the democratic requirements before payments of tens of billions of euros from the European Union’s development funds can be made, a senior EU official said Tuesday.

The right-wing government that won power in 2015 has been increasingly defying many EU regulations and also the 27-member bloc’s guiding role in the justice and lawmaking system, as well as in some social life areas.

Vera Jourova, the deputy of the European Commission who is in charge of values and transparency, said that negotiations are still ongoing with Poland on the payments of 75 billion euros ($73 billion) from the cohesion fund.

She said Poland’s new minister for EU ties needs to reassure Brussels that the recalcitrant government is making good on the promises it made this year to meet certain “milestones” and bring its judicial policies into line and guarantee judicial independence.

“We don’t want to see the country of such importance, of such size, the Polish people being left without the EU support,” Jourova said in Brussels.

Amid a drawn-out stalemate with Brussels over the rule-of-law and the judiciary, Warsaw replaced its minister for EU ties last week, appointing deputy foreign minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek to the post.

The 27-member EU is highly critical of the changes that Poland’s government has introduced into the country’s judiciary as it tried to take control of the courts. Brussels has already frozen payment of much-needed billions of euros from its pandemic recovery fund for Poland. Freezing the cohesion funds, which refund infrastructure investments, would only add to Poland’s difficult situation.

Jourova suggested there could be “some bigger political lack of will” in Warsaw, but that she hoped that “the Polish situation will progress well.”

In Poland, opposition figures warn that it would be disastrous for the country if also the cohesion funds were withheld.

Former prime minister and former EU leader, Donald Tusk, has blamed the threat to the disbursements on power infighting between Poland’s main ruling Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and the justice minister and author of the controversial judicial policies, Zbigniew Ziobro, who leads a small party within the ruling coalition.

“They are at loggerheads and we are all paying for that, and the costs are going into hundreds of billions of euros,” said Tusk, now head of the main opposition Civic Platform party.

Warsaw mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski says the “situation is becoming very serious” and could be prove catastrophic for local governments. Poland could lose funds worth about 530 billion zlotys ($107 billion), or the capital city’s budget for 25 years.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki denied that Poland’s cohesion funds were threatened and insisted Poland has not made any claims for them yet. Seeking to end the stalemate over the pandemic recovery funds, Morawiecki agreed to lift the political control of the judiciary, but the EU says the pledges have not been met yet.

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This story corrects the spelling of EU official’s last name to Jourova.

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