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On Wednesday, the European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni spoke to the EU Parliament’s Budgets, Economic and Monetary Affairs Committees about the progress on the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the current state of national recovery plans in the respective EU member countries.
Asked about the reason behind the protracted negotiations with Poland regarding the assessment of its national covid recovery plan (the Polish government submitted a draft already at the beginning of May), Gentiloni explained that the ongoing discussions concern the issue of the primacy of EU law. "The discussion, as the Polish authorities know very well, includes also the issue of the primacy of EU law and the possible consequences of this issue on the Polish recovery and resilience plan" – Gentiloni said.
Already back in July, we reported that, according to our sources in Brussels, the European Commission had put the assessment of Poland’s national recovery plan on hold for this very reason. Now, however, Brussels has for the first time decided to admit it publicly.
Negotiations ended in mid-July
The negotiations on Poland’s draft recovery and resilience plan were largely closed by mid-July. The translation of the plan into the legal language of the EU Council’s "executive decision" was already being finalized, 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.
Although the Disciplinary Chamber was later partially suspended again, Poland has still not fully complied with the CJEU's orders. What is more, in September, the Constitutional Tribunal intends to hold a hearing at the request of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki seeking to undermine the CJEU's powers on judicial matters.
From Brussels’ point of view, an independent judiciary guarantees that the funds are spent in accordance with the strict guidelines set by the EU. That is why the European Commission is now using the national recovery plan negotiations to try to force some corrective measures into the regulations regarding the prosecution (both in Poland and Hungary). But while the Commission officially extended the deadline to approve Budapest’s national recovery plan until the end of September, the state of negotiations with Poland remains uncertain. Poland was supposed to receive a green light from Brussels by August 1, but the Commission keeps saying that it is still evaluating the draft.
Billions in funds put into question
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% of EU's entire population.
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 with Brussels.
This allowed the Polish government to argue in the Parliament that it could no longer initiate any changes to the plan on its own, effectively blocking the opposition from negotiating some aspects of the draft. Only in the second half of May Brussels confirmed that the standard two-month assessment period for Poland was being extended to three, which expired on August 1.
Donald Tusk: „Poland is missing out on the new Marshall Plan"
The leader of Poland’s largest opposition party and former head of the EU council, Donald Tusk, published a statement on social media in which he blamed Jarosław Kaczyński for the EU’s decision to suspend Poland’s multi-billion pandemic recovery funds.
Tusk compared the current situation to the one in which Poland found itself after World War II. - Poland once missed out on the Marshall Plan because we were a lawless country under authoritarian communist rule. Instead of receiving assistance from the West, we were tied to the Soviet order. Today’s situation begins to look similar - he said.
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