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9th Dec 2022

MEPs call on EU countries to wait for Poland's rule-of-law reform

  • EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen at Wednesday's parliamentary debate on the Polish recovery plan (Photo: European Parliament)
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MEPs strongly criticised the European Commission on Thursday (9 June) for giving the green light for Poland's recovery fund — despite unresolved concerns over the country's judicial independence.

In a resolution, adopted with 411 votes in favour, 129 against, and 31 abstentions, European lawmakers expressed "grave concerns" about the commission's endorsement of Poland's €35.4bn recovery money.

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MEPs also called on national capitals to only approve the recovery plan once Poland has implemented previous rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on scrapping the disciplinary regime for judges, and reinstating dismissed judges.

EU finance ministers are expected to also give their approval to the Polish plans on 17 June.

However, lawmakers stopped short of adopting a proposed amendment by the Greens to censure the commission if it disburses recovery funds to Poland before the conditions on the judiciary have been fulfilled by Warsaw.

On Tuesday, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tried to calm nerves in the European Parliament where MEPs questioned the EU executive on its decision on the Polish recovery fund.

Von der Leyen pledged not to disburse funds before Poland delivers on the first two of three conditions: abolishing the disciplinary chamber for judges, reforming the disciplinary regime.

The third condition, reinstating unlawfully dismissed judges should be done by the end of 2023, the commission said.

MEPs nevertheless said, the commission did not go far enough.

200 new judges

Lawmakers said that judges should be reinstated immediately based on the ECJ's previous ruling. The resolution notes that more than 200 new judges have been nominated by Poland's president Andrzej Duda.

"What the commission did was a mistake," said German Green MEP Terry Reintke in a statement after the vote.

"It should be self-evident for every member state to abide by the rulings of the ECJ," she added.

In the meantime, a proposal to overhaul the disciplinary chamber has been stuck in the Polish parliament. According to critics, those plans are not going far enough to remove the possibility of political interference.

"What is important for us is the final law, that will be then signed by the president, coming into force," Eric Mamer, commission spokesman, said on Thursday.

No money to Poland without rule of law, von der Leyen says

"[The commission's] three commitments must be fulfilled before any payment can be made," EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said as criticism of the EU executive mounts for approving Poland's recovery plan.

EU approved Poland's recovery fund despite criticism

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is expected to travel to Warsaw on Thursday to announce the move — which comes after a year-long debate over the release of Covid-19 recovery financing.

Von der Leyen seen dragging heels on Hungary and Poland

Lawmakers vented frustration that the EU Commission might delay action against the nationalist leaderships in Poland and Hungary despite a court victory. Experts on EU affairs sounded a more cautious note.

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