Completion of Polish recovery plan's milestones key for funds

Monika Skolimowska/PAP

European Commission (EC) Vice-President Margether Vestager has said that before the EU's post-pandemic recovery fund can be unlocked for Poland, the EC must evaluate whether the rule-of-law milestones included in the country's recovery plan (KPO) have been completed.

The EC approved Poland's KPO in early June, opening the way for Warsaw to get EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 11.5 billion in cheap loans. But the EC has long been at loggerheads with Poland's ruling Law and Justice party and froze Warsaw's access to the funds until it meets several conditions, known as "milestones", on the rule of law.

In May, Poland adopted new legislation abolishing a Disciplinary Chamber for judges at the Supreme Court, which has been at the heart of the dispute between Brussels and Warsaw. In July, a new body within the Supreme Court, called the Chamber of Professional Responsibility, was set up.

Talking to a Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, Vestager said that a group of EU commissioners, including herself, felt that the milestones in the KPO were not clear enough, in particular with regard to the reinstatement of judges removed from adjudication by the contested Disciplinary Chamber.

But she also admitted that most of her colleagues had accepted the KPO so now it is crucial to assess whether the milestones have been achieved, including whether the new chamber is independent, the law will meet the expectations and judges would not be punished for asking about the status of another judge or for asking for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

Vestager said that such evaluation is now underway. According to her, based on clearly defined milestones, the EC is able to assess the composition and functioning of the new chamber and the new regulations on the disciplinary system of judges. The only doubt that remains, she added, is whether the milestones in the KPO fully reflect the rulings of the CJEU.