WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The head of the European Commission visited Warsaw on Thursday to officially confirm the EU executive’s long-delayed approval of Poland’s pandemic recovery plan, which will allow for the conditional release of billions of dollars in grants and loans to the country would.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Wednesday to discuss the Commission’s decision. They were later due to meet with President Andrzej Duda and jointly announce the deal, which comes about as Poland takes steps to resolve some of the sticking points that have held up the plan’s approval for months.
The agreement includes “milestones” to ensure judicial independence, which Poland must achieve before any of the nearly 36 billion euros ($38.5 billion) can be made available.
The EU has frozen funds due to the Polish government’s political control over the judiciary, and the milestones not yet reached require changes there. The disciplinary system for judges, which the government uses to punish critics, needs to be changed and new rules introduced, while sanctions imposed on judges need to be reviewed and lifted if they are deemed unfair.
Polish lawmakers are still working to change the Supreme Court’s rules to abolish the controversial Disciplinary Body, but will replace it with another body of professional accountability. Only one of the dozens of suspended judges was reinstated, but to a different section of his court, and was placed on leave.
The Commission’s approval of Poland’s recovery plan has to be confirmed by the other 26 member states of the European Union within four weeks. This would ultimately give the nationalist government in Warsaw access to €23.9 billion in grants and €11.5 billion in loans.
The commission made the decision on Wednesday, despite a group of lawmakers in the European Parliament expressing deep concern at Poland’s democratic backsliding.
It was initially not clear when the funds could flow.