WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The European Commission chief visited Warsaw Thursday to officially confirm the EU executive's long-delayed approval of Poland’s pandemic recovery plan, which would enable conditional release of billions of euros in grants and loans to the country.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for talks about the commission's decision taken Wednesday. They were later to meet with President Andrzej Duda and jointly announce the agreement, which comes as Poland is taking steps to remove some of the sticking points that held up the plan's approval for months.
The agreement includes “milestones” in ensuring judiciary independence that Poland needs to reach before any of the nearly 36 billion euros ($38.5 billion) can be made available.
The EU has frozen the funds due to the Polish government's political control of the judiciary, and the milestones — which have not yet been reached — call for changes there. The disciplinary regime for judges, which the government has used to punish critics, must be changed and given new rules, while sanctions applied to judges must be reviewed and lifted if deemed unjust.
Poland's lawmakers are still working on changing Supreme Court regulations to abolish the controversial Disciplinary Chamber, but will replace it with another body of professional accountability. Only one of the dozens of suspended judges has been reinstated, but to a different section in his court, and has been ordered to go on leave.
The commission's approval of Poland's recovery plan must be confirmed by the other 26 European Union member states within four weeks. It would see the nationalist government in Warsaw eventually gain access to 23.9 billion euros ($25.4 billion) in grants and 11.5 billion euros ($11.7 billion) in loans.
The commission reached the decision Wednesday, even as a group of European Parliament lawmakers expressed deep unease about democratic backsliding in Poland.
It was not immediately clear when the funds could start to flow.
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