The Vice-President of the EU Commission, Frans Timmermans, thinks it is wrong that the vast majority of the 27 EU Commissioners voted on Wednesday to approve the Polish reconstruction plan as part of the multi-billion euro Corona aid fund. “I do not share this opinion,” said Timmermans on Thursday in the WDR Europaforum, referring to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s assessment that the national-conservative government in Poland had met the conditions for approving the reconstruction plan.
Timmermans admitted, however, that he represents a minority position in the body of 27 EU commissioners. The Dutchman and the Danish Margrethe Vestager, who also acts as deputy head of the commission, voted against the approval of the Polish plan on Wednesday. The plan forms the basis for Poland to receive more than 35 billion euros in aid from the Corona reconstruction fund.
For years, a dispute has been smoldering between the EU Commission and Poland over the controversial judicial reform introduced by the government under the leadership of the national conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party since 2015. Timmermans was already involved in the previous EU Commission, led by Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker, when the Brussels authorities initiated unprecedented criminal proceedings against Poland in view of the deficiencies in the separation of powers in Poland.
One of the current core demands of the EU Commission is that the Polish government must abolish the disciplinary chamber at the Supreme Court, which allows judges and public prosecutors who are politically unpopular to be dismissed. Last Thursday, the Polish parliament, the Sejm, passed a law to abolish the disciplinary chamber.
On Thursday, however, Timmermans was convinced that, contrary to the conviction of Commission President von der Leyen, Poland had by no means reached all the so-called milestones for the approval of the reconstruction plan. He respects Leyen’s assessment, he said. However, in his opinion, Poland does not meet the requirements of a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), according to which judges who have been unlawfully dismissed in Poland must be reinstated. “The EU cannot survive if we don’t have independent judges,” Timmermans said.
Due to the deficiencies in the rule of law, the EU Commission had hesitated for a long time to release the Polish Corona construction plan, which the government in Warsaw originally submitted in May 2021. There is speculation in Brussels that Poland’s role in the Ukraine war and in taking in more than three million refugees has led to the Brussels authorities giving in.
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After the reconstruction plan has been approved, von der Leyen is expected in Warsaw this Thursday. Meetings with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Head of State Andrzej Duda are planned during the visit.