Von der Leyen lays out path to unlock Polish recovery funds — with conditions

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday expressed hope the EU could find a solution with Poland over recovery funds stalled due to a rule-of-law dispute — but laid out several conditions the country must meet first.

The Commission has withheld approval of Poland’s pandemic recovery funds over the long-running disagreements, which escalated earlier this month when the Polish Constitutional Tribunal found certain tenets of EU law incompatible with the country’s constitution. Many in Brussels saw the ruling as challenging the EU’s basic legal framework.

“I think it is doable, I hope that we’ll reach an agreement, but the reform is conditio sine qua non,” von der Leyen said at a press conference in Brussels.

Recovery funds are awarded to EU countries provided they address certain reform requests, so-called Country Specific Recommendations, that the Commission issues annually. Poland has been allotted €24 billion in grants and €12 billion in low-interest loans from the recovery fund.

The Commission has a “long standing Country Specific Recommandation for Poland that is the independence of the judiciary,” von der Leyen said during her press conference.

The compromise Brussels is pushing would require Poland to commit to “dismantle the disciplinary chamber, to end or reform the disciplinary regime, and to start a process to reinstall the judges,” von der Leyen said.

These conditions are derived from the European Court of Justice’s ruling, von der Leyen said, which in mid-July found Poland’s disciplinary chamber for its justices incompatible with EU law.

“This happens to be of course also embedded in the overall ruling of the [European Court of Justice] … therefore there is consistency in what we’re asking for,” von der Leyen said.

The EU’s highest court on Wednesday hit Poland with a fine of €1 million a day — its largest-ever daily penalty — for refusing so far to dismantle the chamber. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has pledged to comply with the ruling, without offering specifics on when and how he will do so.

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