PM defends Poland's amended Supreme Court law
Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, has defended a new Supreme Court law scrapping a disputed disciplinary chamber for judges, a necessary step to receive EU post-pandemic recovery funds after a senior EU official questioned the validity of the amendment.
According to the tvn.24.pl news portal, European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova was asked on Thursday at a meeting of the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) whether the amendment to Poland's Supreme Court law meets the conditions set out in the country's recovery plan (KPO).
Jourova replied that the KPO failed to meet the conditions, or milestones in EU terminology, necessary to receive EU funding. She said that Poland would have to reflect on these conditions and if there is no sufficient response in the legally binding provisions regarding the Polish judicial system that match the milestones, the EU will not pay the money.
She added that she was only reiterating the earlier words of the head of the European Commission (EC).
On June 1, the EC approved Poland's KPO plan, which outlines how it will spend money from a post-pandemic recovery fund. The approval was a step towards granting Poland access to EUR 35.4 billion from the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).
The EC said Poland's KPO contained milestones related to important aspects of judicial independence and that Warsaw must show that they have been met before any payment could be made.
Subsequently, finance ministers of all EU member states approved Poland's KPO on June 17.
Responding to Jourova's statement, Morawiecki told a press conference later on Thursday that if somebody was looking for problems they would always find something that "may not fit", adding "we need to de-dramatise the situation, we need unity and solidarity."
"With the Partnership Agreement we have certain indicators and targets to be achieved," he said. "Similarly, in the National Recovery Plan, Poland and all other European Union member states have indicators and targets to be achieved. Some indicators are to be implemented 100 percent, others a little less - then the process of discussions and negotiations with the European Commission takes place."
Morawiecki added that Poland would fight for its rights and that he was hopeful that later this year or early next year the first funds, not only from the Partnership Agreement, but also from the KPO will flow into the specified projects.
The Polish government’s spokesperson Piotr Mueller told PAP that the European Commission had not issued any official position on the Polish plans.
"This is just a statement by one EU commissioner during the EP committee meeting," he said. "The application for payments and the description of changes adopted in the Polish law will only be discussed with the European Commission," Mueller added.
According to Tomasz Grodzki, the speaker of the Senate, Poland’s upper house, Jourova's words suggest that "the prospect of receiving funds from the KPO is dramatically receding."
He called for an urgent meeting of the Sejm, lower house, to include key Senate amendments on the Supreme Court law that were rejected.