‘Ugly Realpolitik’ opens money to Poland

Judges and others at a protest in Krakow over violations of the rule of law in Poland, January 2022.Image by NurPhoto via Getty Images

What exactly did the committee decide?

She was blessed on Wednesday evening by plans in which Poland hopes to get 35.4 billion euros from the European Recovery Fund. This has been negotiated between Brussels and Warsaw for over a year, and the accompanying documents add up to over 300 pages, so the commission didn’t act overnight. Nearly half of the money goes to sustainable energy, cleaner transportation, and home renovation and insulation. This makes the Polish recovery plan the most environmentally ambitious in Europe. It is now up to European finance ministers to balance the positive opinion of the Commission. If he takes power, billions could flow into Poland from the end of this year.

That fits nicely with Commissioner Timmermans’ green deal, so why the fuss?

In order to claim money from the European Recovery Fund (total 750 billion euros), EU countries must meet all kinds of conditions. The European Union wants to ensure that billions do not disappear into the pockets of political parties or the pockets of the mafia, and this requires independent judges. The Polish government has made every effort in recent years to dismiss or suspend these people; The rulings of the European Court of Justice leave no room for doubt. The commission demands this: Poland must dismantle the controversial Judiciary Disciplinary Chamber (a pro-government club) and the suspended judges must be given a second chance.

Commissioners Timmermans (Green Deal) and Vestager (Competition) did not go far enough, as they voted against the commission’s proposal. Three other Commissioners expressed grave concern. This is not enough to block the proposal, but this resistance in the committee is exceptional. Critics argue that the European Court last year ordered Poland to overturn the decision to suspend judges by the Disciplinary Chamber. Resettlement as suggested by the commission is of minimal extent, does not provide certainty to the judges involved and the proceedings can take a year and a half. In short: the commission does not take the court seriously.

Who is right: Von der Leyen or the Timmermans?

According to the head of the Optimists Committee von der Leyen. They see the Commission’s demands as the beginning of real change in Poland. Initially unwilling to make any concessions on the rule of law in Warsaw, the Disciplinary Chamber was much needed to cleanse the judiciary of old communist influences. Now Warsaw agree to the terms of the commission. Von der Leyen, who is visiting Polish President Duda and Prime Minister Morawiecki on Thursday, said all erroneously dismissed judges should regain their jobs by the end of 2023.

Pessimists see circumstance as a waxy nose. The Disciplinary Chamber is being replaced by another similar institution, the suspended judges remain unemployed and the rest of the corrupt Polish judicial system will not change. Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki said on Thursday that the rule of law in Poland is not under pressure at all.

The truth is that recovery fund criteria are not inclusive and appropriate for everyone. It was never intended this way: by order of the member states, the demands are aimed at protecting the financial interests of the European Union, not at a complete reform of the Polish rule of law. The truth is that Poland’s role in the European Union has changed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is no longer the source of stubborn problems, but the engine of the hard line against Russia. Moreover, the member state where millions of Ukrainian refugees are received. This has changed the dynamics between Brussels and Warsaw and helped open the money faucet. “Ugly realpolitik,” according to an EU official.

Can Poland now continue to undermine the rule of law undisturbed?

number. First, the money from the redemption fund is introduced little by little while fulfilling the agreements. If Poland does not do this, the flow of money will stop. Reimbursement of subsidies is also possible. Second, other means of pressure on Poland will continue: criminal proceedings in court, the debate over disenfranchisement of Poland in the European Union, and the annual review of the rule of law. Finally, criticism from commissioners, judges and MEPs means that the Commission will be watching Poland closely.

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