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EU executive tries to reassure angry parliament: No funds for Poland without reforms




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On Tuesday (7 June), the EU's chief executive tried to reassure angry European lawmakers that Poland would not receive any COVID economic recovery funding before it has taken action to restore independent courts after having formally unlocked this money last week.

After withholding executive approval for the funds for a whole year due to Warsaw's destruction of democracy, President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, gave in to pressure by some European Union member countries to reward Poland for hosting the refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that no money would be disbursed until these reforms were completed. This was in reference to Brussels' demand for Poland to end a contentious disciplinary system for judges.

Many European legislators were skeptical of von der Leyen’s assurances. They criticised her announcement last week, which she made while visiting Warsaw. She said that €36 billion would not be locked for Poland despite the fact that it has failed to reinstate independent courts.

Iratxe Garcia Perez from Spain, the Spanish head of the socialist group in the European Parliament, stated that "solidarity (with Ukraine), should not be used to bargaining chips." His comments were echoed by many other lawmakers.

Von der Leyen's announcement of last week seemed to be a coup to Poland's ruling Nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), which has been increasingly at odds with the EU Headquarters in Brussels since it came to power in 2015.

The populist conservative PiS has tightened political controls around the state and private media. It has also curbed rights for gays, migrants, and women. In the country of 38m people, it overhauled the courts, which is the largest in the EU's eastern region.


The core of this dispute between Warsaw, Poland and the bloc lies in Poland's disciplinary Chamber that has sanctioned some judges critical to the PiS government.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), the EU's highest court, ordered the chamber to be dismantled because it failed to prevent political meddling in independent courts.

Germany's Katarina Barrley, a European socialist lawmaker, stated that many Polish courts are a "puppet of PiS".

Guy Verhofstadt from Belgium, a senior liberal lawmaker threatened to overthrow von der Leyen if Poland doesn't get enough money before enacting all ECJ decisions.

Von der Leyen, whose support is dependent on the EU parliament to pass policies, stated that Poland should dismantle and replace the Disciplinary Chamber with a "substantially differing" one.

She also required Warsaw to change its disciplinary system in general. This included ensuring that it doesn't punish judges who seek clarifications from the ECJ.

A third requirement is that judges who have been sanctioned by a standing disciplinary chamber can have their cases reviewed

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