Law and Justice (PiS), the leading party in Poland’s three-party coalition government, has apparently secured enough votes in the parliament to ratify the EU’s coronavirus pandemic recovery fund after striking an unexpected deal with the Left opposition group on April 27.
“Today let the adoption of this legal act be the Polish raison d'etat. This is a great opportunity for us,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters. The PM compared the fund to the Marshall Plan, a post-World War 2 recovery effort, which communist Poland missed on the orders of Moscow.
The recovery fund is to give Poland just over €58bn in grants and loans in 2021-2023 on top of the regular funding from the bloc’s next budget for the years of 2021-2027. All told, Poland is set to receive over €150bn from EU funding in the next seven years.
Poland’s economy could grow an additional 0.6pp-2pp in 2021 and 1.7pp-2.1pp in 2022 thanks to the resources from the recovery fund only, S&P Global Ratings said on April 27.
The ratification of the agreement to give the recovery fund green light was far from certain, as PiS’s junior coalition partner, United Poland, has voiced strong opposition.
The party has kept saying that the fund means the EU taking on common debt. United Poland also claimed that linking the disbursement of the funds to the rule of law mechanism was Brussels’ political ploy aimed at derailing the government’s overhaul of the judiciary – which critics say means subjugating courts to party control.
For PiS, however, money from the recovery fund is a major plank in the party’s political plan for the coming years. For the opposition, in turn, supporting the fund’s ratification appeared a matter of its pro-EU principles.
However, as soon as the government became visibly split over the ratification, the liberal opposition group, Civic Coalition, whiffed a chance of exploiting it. The party began rallying the rest of the opposition to block the ratification vote in the hope of the coalition caving in.
The opportunity proved short-lived, as the Left eventually clinched a deal with PiS, which praised it for “seriousness” and rising above party divisions. The Left said that the government met its demands on how to spend the recovery fund money so as to help build flats for rent or support local hospitals.
The use of funds will also be monitored by a committee composed of government officials, unions, local governments, and NGOs, the Left said.
Civic Coalition has since launched a number of attacks on the Left in the media, accusing it of throwing the wobbling government a lifeline.
The ratification vote is expected in May. In an unusual pattern, PiS, its other coalition partner, Accord, and the Left are now expected to vote in favour of the ratification. The EU-sceptic United Poland, the far-right Confederation, and the normally pro-EU Civic Coalition are expected to vote against.