Wednesday 22 March 2023

Dutch MEPs, EU commissioner oppose Poland fund release plan


Dutch MEPs have reacted angrily to the European Commission’s decision to support Poland’s €35.4 billion recovery fund, clearing the way for the payout of EU coronavirus support cash after a year of negotiations.

The decision, taken by president Ursula von der Leyen, has aroused controversy because Poland has not yet met conditions laid down by the Commission earlier for the release of the money, which involve loosening its grip on the legal system.

D66 MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld said the decision had effectively ‘castrated the European Court of Justice’.

PvdA MEP Thijs Reuten was equally angry. ‘Von der Leyen has pushed this decision through for the wrong reasons and has given in to Poland’s political blackmail,’ he said. CDA MEPs also said the decision is unwise.

Although Poland will have to initiate further reforms to access the money, much of which will go on an ambitious programme to decarbonise the economy and boost energy independence, a wide range of critics say the Commission is not going far enough.

At least two commission vice-presidents – the Netherlands’ Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager – voted against approval, and up to five Commissioners have expressed their serious doubts.

In what website Politico described as a ‘particularly sharp rebuke’, Timmermans said that he ‘disagrees with the fact that the legal order is being adjusted to the political reality, instead of the other way around’.

Poland’s nationalist government had refused to loosen control over the legal system, as demanded by the Commission, but last week the Polish parliament voted to dismantle a disciplinary committee set up to sanction outspoken judges. However, opponents argue this is not sufficient in itself to merit the funds being released.

Von der Leyen will debate the issue with MEPs next week.

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