Polish parliament approves legislation to attempt to unlock billions in EU funding

Now, the legislation must be approved by President Andrzej Duda, who has been critical of the measure, as he believes it questions the propriety of his judicial appointments

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: polsatnews.pl
Source: Twitter/SejmRP

Legislation to reform Poland’s judicial system in accordance with EU demands is making its way through Poland’s parliament — all it needs now is the signature of President Andrzej Duda. If he signs off on the law, the country may be eligible for billions in EU funding, which, up until now, has been blocked. However, there are no guarantees the EU will actually send Poland the money it is owed.

The Polish senate had attempted to add amendments to the new legislation, but the Sejm, the lower House of the Polish parliament, rejected the Senate’s amendments to legislation regarding the Polish Supreme Court, as the draft had already been reviewed by the European Commission.

The law on the Supreme Court, which has completed its parliamentary passage, moves the process of disciplining judges away from the Supreme Court to the chief administrative court and allows for a process of verifying whether a judge is independent before he sits on a particular case.

The legislation is part of the Polish government’s attempt to meet demands from the European Commission after it blocked funding for Poland from the EU Recovery Fund for alleged non-compliance with the principle of rule of law. 

However, there are signs that President Andrzej Duda may not sign off on the legislation. He has been critical of the measure, as he believes it questions the propriety of his judicial appointments. Duda may veto it or submit it to the Constitutional Court to determine whether it is constitutional. 

The legislation has been hotly disputed by the Solidarity Poland party, which is led by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and is a faction in the ruling United Right coalition. The party has consistently argued that Poland should never have allowed the conditionality mechanism to be passed within the EU and that the EU commission has no right, according to the treaties, to question the way the Polish judiciary is run. The party has also asked whether it is worth the loss of sovereignty Poland is experiencing for funds that are based on EU borrowing, which Poland along with other member states will eventually have to finance. 

Ziobro and his colleagues voted against the amendments passed in the upper house, the Senate, as these went even further in questioning the current judicial reforms. Solidarity Poland maintains that the law on the Supreme Court is a mistake, as it is “giving into EU blackmail.”

If Poland’s president approves the legislation, Poland will prepare its demand for payment from the EU Recovery Fund. However, it is not clear at this stage whether the legislation will be enough to unlock the funds, as there are those in both the European Commission and the European Parliament who continue to argue that Poland has not done enough to ensure compliance with the EU on the rule of law. 

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