The President of the European Commission (EC), Ursula von der Leyenyesterday justified the decision to approve Poland’s recovery plan despite deficiencies in the judicial independence of this country and assured that the disbursement perspective “has set in motion” reforms in Warsaw that were not on the table a year ago.
At the plenary session of the institution in Strasbourg, the president of the Community Executive explained to the MEPs the controversial approval of the Polish plan before the ultra-conservative Government of Law and Justice complies with the conditions of judicial reform that both Brussels and the European justice have raised in recent years.
Von der Leyen assured that, although all concerns about Polish judicial independence have not yet been resolved, the recovery plan has allowed “have movement in the right direction” and “capacity of influence” to reach the results that Brussels seeks.
“When we started our negotiations with the Polish government on the recovery plan in May a year ago, these (reform) commitments did not exist. Our negotiations launched the necessary movement and now the Polish Parliament is debating a new law, judges unduly removed have a prospect of returning to their posts”, von der Leyen insisted.
The German once again recalled that the conditions attached to Poland receiving the first payment from the recovery fund are precisely those linked to Brussels’ concerns about its judicial independence: abolish the disciplinary chamber for judges and replace it with an impartial tribunalreform the disciplinary regime for magistrates and a fair trial for judges who have been removed to date.
These three commitments, he insisted, “must be met before any payment can be made.” “I know that some of you are skeptical, but let me assure you that (…) the first payment will only be possible when a new law that meets all the requirements comes into force,” said the president of the Commission.
Although Poland intends to request the first disbursement in July and receive it in September, community sources assume that the evaluation process will take longer and, in any case, will not happen until the end of the year, provided that Warsaw meets the milestones .
Also, to unlock these almost 4,500 million euros (2,851 million in direct aid and 1,531 million in loans) the Polish recovery plan must first also receive the go-ahead from the other Member States.
Three liberal MEPs have come this week to raise the idea of a motion of censure against the Commission if it disburses funds before Poland meets the requirements, but groups in the European Parliament have avoided explicitly supporting it at this time, considering it premature.
“Our strategy is to use all the instruments at our disposal to address all rule of law problems in Poland”, explained Von der Leyen, who was convinced that implementing these milestones, in addition to allowing the disbursement of funds, will lead to “resolving important issues related to the disciplinary regime identified by the Court of Justice of the European Union.”
“The recovery fund does not replace the sentence, it is a safety net for Poland to comply with it,” added the Commission president.
In any case, Von der Leyen insisted, the green light for the Polish recovery plan “does not stop any of the other procedures” open on the rule of law in Poland, for which this country is paying millions in fines every day.