Poland threatens to veto EU budget if funding is made conditional on rule of law

Poland threatens to veto EU budget if funding is made conditional on rule of law
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw November 13, 2020

Poland will veto the upcoming budget of the European Union for the years 2021-2027 if rule of law is made a requirement to gain access to funding, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on November 12.

Poland has long been at loggerheads with the EU primarily over changes in the country’s judiciary branch, seen in Brussels as an attempt to subjugate courts to the government’s control.

“Poland cannot accept the mechanism [of linking EU funding to the rule of law] which would lead to the primacy of political and arbitrary criteria over a substantive assessment,” Morawiecki wrote on Facebook about his objections, which he detailed in a letter sent to top EU decision-makers and institutions. 

Poland is one of the biggest beneficiaries of EU funding, which helped the former communist economy a great deal in upgrading its transport infrastructure and boosting environmental protections.

EU funds will be of even bigger importance in the coming years, as Poland eyes economic recovery after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2021 and beyond.

The incumbent coalition government of Law and Justice (PiS) and two smaller right-wing parties has orchestrated an unprecedented power grab over the state’s key institutions, including the judiciary.

Claiming that the Polish courts need an overhaul to improve their efficiency and get rid of communist-era judges, the government can now control the process of appointing judges. 

PiS also controls one of the country’s top courts, the Constitutional Tribunal, which – reportedly after a behind-the-scenes prompt from the government – recently issued a near-complete ban on abortion, setting off mass street protests.

The next EU budget is currently subject to negotiations. While there is an early-stage deal over the budget – worth €1.8 trillion, including the coronavirus recovery fund of €750bn – the final step is the unanimous agreement of all member states.

Apart from Poland, Warsaw’s ally in Central Europe, Hungary, has also said linking the budget to the rule of law – which Budapest is at odds with, according to Western European powers – is unacceptable.