German MEPs behind EU funding clampdown on Poland, German weekly says
Two German MEPs, Daniel Freund and Fritz Koerner, are largely responsible for the EC's decision to block post-pandemic recovery funding for Poland on rule-of-law grounds, the German Der Spiegel weekly has revealed.
Der Spiegel wrote that in December 2020, when Poland's rule of law dispute with the EU was at its peak, Freund and Koerner, respectively representing the Greens and the liberal German FDP party, exerted mounting pressure on the Commission to take strict measures against Poland and Hungary, which also has rule of law issues with the EU.
The two MEPs repeatedly pressed EC head Ursula von der Leyen to trigger a funding-for-rule-of-law clause enabling countries that violate EU law to be cut off from funding, Der Spiegel wrote.
Von der Leyen, who had initially adopted a more conciliatory stance in the matter and wanted to delay funding decisions in the hope of reaching an understanding, finally had to succumb to the two MEPs' pressure and cut both countries off from a multi-billion-euro post-pandemic recovery fund.
"The two MEPs' battle for more adherence to the rule of law forced EC head von der Leyen to finally confront Poland and Hungary. The Commission's current clampdown on EU funding for both countries is, among others, the effect of this duo's perseverance," Der Spiegel wrote.
Poland is in a protracted dispute with the EC over judicial reforms which the Commission believes could restrict the independence of judges. Poland's failure to comply with the Commission's recommendations in the matter resulted in it being cut off from a sizeable post-pandemic recovery fund established by the EU to aid economies hit by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. A bill amending current judicial legislation in line with the EC's demands - which would unblock the funding - was recently passed by the Polish parliament, but has been sent to the Polish constitutional court for further reviewal by Poland's president, Andrzej Duda.
Commenting on Der Spiegel's report, Grzegorz Puda, Poland's minister for funding and regional policy, said it was "no secret" that German MEPs were behind the stoppage of the post-pandemic aid for Poland "under the pretense of (concern for - PAP) the rule of law."
"Nonetheless, we are in a regular dialogue with the EC, and we count on adherence to the rule of law in its ranks," Puda added.