Top EU official says new Supreme Court law could unlock EU funds for Poland

European Commission (EC) Vice President Vera Jourova has said an amended Supreme Court law currently awaiting consideration by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal would fulfill EC requirements regarding the judiciary and open the door to post-pandemic recovery funds for Warsaw.

Poland expects to receive EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 11.5 billion in loans from the EU's pandemic relief fund under its National Recovery Plan (KPO). Brussels said that before these funds can be unlocked Poland must meet a series of rule-of-law 'milestones,' including full compliance with an EU court ruling requiring Poland to change its rules for disciplining judges. 

In January, the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, passed an amendment to the law on the Supreme Court which aims to meet one of the milestones set by the EC. The amendment proposes that all disciplinary issues concerning judges be settled by the top administrative court instead of the Supreme Court's Chamber of Professional Responsibility, a body created to replace a disciplinary chamber considered by the EC to be politicised.

But then President Andrzej Duda decided to ask the Constitutional Tribunal to assess the amendment's compliance with the constitution, which he described as a "preventative measure."

Talking to private broadcaster TVN24 on Friday, Jourova said that the proposed amendment had been thoroughly consulted with the EC and that she can confirm that the Polish authorities had been assured that its adoption "could solve certain problems."

Asked if it would fulfill the milestone regarding the judiciary, she replied: "Yes," and added that the EC now has no choice but to wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court.

Talking to TVN24, EC Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders admitted that the amendment had been well drafted and discussed with the Commission for months before it was submitted to the Polish Sejm.

Poland's EU minister, Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek, commenting on these statements, told PAP that "the public declarations of the two commissioners confirm that the matter was the subject of detailed arrangements, and that if the amendment referred by the president to the Constitutional Tribunal entered into force it would open the way to obtaining funds from the KPO.