Poland: EU Commission approves release of 137 billion euros

As of: February 29, 2024 3:19 p.m

The EU Commission froze 137 billion euros in the dispute over the rule of law in Poland. Because the new government in Warsaw has initiated the reforms required, the funds are now to be released.

The EU Commission has formally approved the release of 137 billion euros to Poland that had been frozen over concerns about the rule of law. The government in Warsaw has introduced the required reforms and has satisfactorily met important milestones for the independence of the judiciary.

The money comes from two sources: around 76.5 billion euros from the EU cohesion budget, which is intended to equalize the living standards of the member states. On the other hand, the Commission would like to release around 60 billion in EU Corona aid that has been blocked for a long time. Of this, 34.5 billion euros will flow in the form of loans and 25.3 billion euros in the form of grants.

However, the Brussels authority cannot decide on its own about the release of Corona aid; the member states still have to agree.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the release last week. The Polish government has made “significant” efforts, she said during a visit to Warsaw. Polish Justice Minister Adam Bodnar had previously presented an action plan to bring an end to ongoing EU criminal proceedings.

Dispute over judicial reforms

After the change of government in December, Poland received an advance of over five billion euros from the fund that was set up for the recovery of the economy after the corona pandemic. The EU Commission had withheld the money for the country because the previous long-standing PiS government in Warsaw had undermined the justice system.

The EU recently criticized, among other things, a ruling by the Polish Constitutional Court, according to which parts of EU law are not compatible with Poland’s constitution. This decision is seen as highly problematic because it could give Polish politicians an excuse to ignore unfavorable rulings by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The previous national-conservative PiS government in Poland had also implemented highly controversial judicial reforms, which, from the perspective of the ECJ, endanger the independence of the judges there.

rapprochement to the EU

Poland’s new pro-European government under Prime Minister Donald Tusk now wants to defuse the reforms again. During the election campaign before the change of government, Tusk had already promised his compatriots a rapprochement with Brussels in order to release blocked aid.

In addition to the money from Brussels, it is also about a procedure initiated at the end of 2017, which threatened Poland with a withdrawal of voting rights in the EU Council of Ministers due to violations of the rule of law. Warsaw hopes that the process will end before the European elections in early June.

Hungary would then be the only country against which such an action is still underway.

Kathrin Schmid, ARD Brussels, tagesschau, February 29, 2024 2:03 p.m

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