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The Polish government submitted a draft recovery and resilience plan already at the beginning of May. It immediately asked the European Commission to extend the plan’s two-month assessment period by another four weeks, so that it would have enough time to still work out its final shape during preliminary consultations. Recently, the Commission has set the deadline for August 1, but no agreement regarding Poland’s covid recovery plan was reached.
- The European Commission continues to assess the Polish recovery and resilience plan on the basis of the criteria laid down in the Recovery and Resilience Facility regulation. We are continuing to work with the Polish authorities in this process and are working to complete our assessment as soon as possible- Tim McPhie, one of the European Commission’s spokespeople told us on Sunday. For now, the Commission did not specify whether it intends to "propose" that Poland ask to officially extend the assessment period for its national recovery and resilience plan even further.
- It is possible that we will need more time in the case of Poland, too- Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission vice-president piloting all recovery plan cases, announced last week.
In the case of Hungary, this state of limbo lasted for nearly two weeks - the deadline for approving the country’s recovery plan expired in mid-July, and Dombrovskis only last Monday announced his "proposal" to postpone the final deadline until September 30. While the feud with Brussels over Hungary’s homophobic law banning LGBT in schools certainly did not work in the country’s political favor, the European Commission now also demands that Budapest implement additional anti-corruption measures into its recovery plan.
Delaying the assessment of Poland’s recovery and resilience plan
The Polish case, however, is a slightly different story. Having overcome minor frictions over its compliance with EU climate policy, the negotiations on Poland’s draft recovery and resilience plan were largely closed already by mid-July. The translation of the plan into the legal language of the EU Council’s "executive decision" was being finalized in Brussels, when the European Commission received a message to "hold it off". This came after Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal decided to undermine the primacy of EU law and the chief justice of the Polish Supreme Court unfroze the disputed Disciplinary Chamber in defiance of a recent interim measure ordered by the CJEU.
Only the coming days or weeks will show whether Brussels' decision to delay the assessment process was "only" about putting political pressure on Warsaw, or whether – should Poland still not change its mind about implementing the CJEU order - the EU institutions will demand additional safeguards in the Polish recovery plan to ensure the proper management of funds under a compromised judicial system. Vera Jourová, the Commission’s Vice-President responsible for the rule of law, explained almost two weeks ago that Brussels is waiting for proposals from Hungary and Poland concerning the system of control and audit of projects financed under the national recovery and resilience plan. Under the threat of financial penalties, the Commission asked Poland to decide whether it will comply with the CJEU order regarding judiciary by August 16.
Poland’s recovery and resilience plan is up in the air
Poland’s recovery and resilience plan is supposed to be the basis for the Reconstruction Fund (EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 12.1 billion in cheap loans, with the Polish government able to ask for the remaining 22 billion in loans by 2023) enthusiastically announced by the Polish government. But national recovery plans once agreed with the European Commission, must be finally approved by the 27 finance ministers in the EU Council. So far, the EU Council has unanimously approved the plans of 16 EU member states, but the rules allow for a majority vote, in which the national plan would have to get the votes of at least 15 countries representing 65 percent of EU's entire population.
Poland’s Law and Justice government initially hoped that the Polish recovery plan would be approved at the July 26 (tele) meeting of the EU Council, which in turn would allow for an advance payment to Poland (13 % of the total recovery and resilience plan) as early as August. Moreover, several days ago, in Brussels, there was a preliminary discussion about an additional ministerial meeting in August, which could possibly include a discussion on the Polish recovery plan, but the Slovenian presidency of the EU Council has now officially announced that there will be no additional decisions approving the national covid recovery plans before September. Even the Czech Republic and Ireland have to wait until September, as they have already negotiated their national plans with the European Commission, but experts from the 27 EU member states have not yet had the time to analyze them.
The current calendar already shows that a detailed analysis of the Polish recovery and resilience plan by the EU Council experts would not start before September, even in the case that a prompt agreement is reached with the European Commission. This means that the advance payment of 13% from the plan’s total available funds - possible only after approval by the EU Council and completion of all Brussels formalities - is already postponed at least until late October, if not November, and in the more pessimistic scenario even December.
Currently, other from Poland and Hungary, countries still waiting for a green light from the Commission include Romania (it asked for postponing the deadline until the end of September), as well as Estonia, Sweden, Finland, and Malta. Bulgaria and the Netherlands have not yet officially submitted their drafts to Brussels because after the elections they did not yet form fully-fledged governments with the authority to approve the recovery plans.
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