Warsaw presents EU with sanctions procedure exit plan

AFP || Shining BD

Published: 2/20/2024 9:17:21 AM

The Polish government presents an action plan in Brussels on Tuesday to put an end to a European procedure launched against Warsaw in reaction to the controversial reforms of the judicial system implemented by the previous nationalist power.

This roadmap must be submitted by the Polish Minister of Justice, Adam Bodnar, to the EU European Affairs Ministers meeting in Brussels and to the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders.

The judicial reforms undertaken by the nationalist conservatives of the Law and Justice party (PiS), accused of having undermined the independence of judges, also pushed Brussels to block several tens of billions of euros in funds intended for Poland under the of the post-Covid recovery plan.

After years of standoff between Brussels and the previous power, the Commission welcomed in January the efforts of the new pro-European government of Donald Tusk to restore the rule of law, estimating that this could lead to a release of these sums .

In December 2017, the European Commission activated Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, provided for in the event of threats to the rule of law and often described as a “nuclear weapon”.

“Before the Europeans”

This procedure – which has since also been initiated against Hungary in September 2018, this time at the initiative of the European Parliament – can in theory go as far as a suspension of the voting rights of a State in the Council of the EU.

It is intended as a last resort against a country committing “a serious and persistent violation” of EU values. In the case of Poland, the Commission found that the Polish government's reforms had the effect of bringing the judiciary under the political control of the ruling majority.

Rule of law: Warsaw presents plan to EU to exit sanctions procedureThe European Parliament in Brussels, April 26, 2021 / Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/Archives

In practice, however, this Article 7 procedure has only given rise to discussions within the Council, without a decision being taken to move to the next stage leading to sanctions.

The Polish Minister of Justice announced last week his intention to present “an action plan at the meeting of the General Affairs Council of the EU (…) in order to put an end to the procedure provided for in the Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union against Poland.

He “expressed the hope that this would happen before the European Parliament elections”, scheduled for June 6-9, according to the ministry.

European funds intended for Poland as part of the recovery plan amount to almost 60 billion euros (34.5 billion in loans and 25.3 billion in grants).

However, in November the EU authorized the payment of an advance of 5.1 billion euros to this country. This sum is not subject to any conditions, unlike the rest of the funds which remain frozen until now, pending reforms to respond to Brussels' concerns.

Shining BD