EU recovery to be ‘six months behind’ world economy says expert
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Poland moved closer to ratifying COVID-19 recovery legislation yesterday after the Warsaw government agreed to opposition proposals on how money should be spent. All of the EU’s 27 members must ratify a decision by the bloc to increase the upper limit for national contributions to the EU budget, in order for it to borrow the 750 billion euros (£652,233 billion) needed to implement the recovery fund.
However, splits in Poland’s ruling United Right coalition over the plan have made opposition support necessary and even raised the possibility of early elections if the government cannot secure majority backing in parliament, which would compound the sense of instability in an alliance that has been racked with tensions for months.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “Today it must be emphasised with full force that the pace of overcoming the COVID crisis will depend on whether these funds can be accepted.”
He added that the bill would now go to parliament.
But while the approval of the plans in Poland is pivotal to the implementation of the recovery fund in the whole of the EU, it presents itself as a double-edged sword for Brussels.
Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, warned the national ratification of the plan could “come at the cost of the EU legal order and Polish democracy.”
He told Politico: “Poland’s problems with the rule of law don’t just raise serious doubts about whether the money from the fund will be well spent, it raises the spectre the money provided by the EU will be used to cement the Law and Justice’s party increasingly autocratic rule.
“In an open letter to the government published on Tuesday, a broad coalition of Polish non-governmental organisations criticised the government’s work on the national recovery fund for lacking transparency and ignoring the public consultations required by the EU.
“But the real problem is a lack of judicial oversight.”
He continued: “The problem is getting worse. Even as the ruling coalition squabbled over the recovery fund, it was taking steps to reject the supremacy of EU law.
“On Wednesday, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal will assess if the CJEU’s right to control the independence of the judiciary violates the Polish constitution.
“The tribunal is controlled by the government, packed with Law and Justice politicians and loyalists. The chief justice is a personal friend of Kaczyński. The government’s goal is obvious: to introduce a constitutional barrier barring the implementation of rulings on judicial independence by the CJEU.
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“Should this come about, last year’s controversial decision by the German Constitutional Court challenging the supremacy of EU courts would pale in comparison.
“The Polish decision would effectively deny the role of the CJEU and the European Commission as protectors of the treaties and rule-based legal order.
“The fundamental EU principle of mutual trust — which requires access to independent courts in all member countries — would no longer hold true.
“This must not be allowed to take place. Poland is a pivotal country for the EU, and it is in the entire bloc’s interest to help it succeed.
“The need to approve the pandemic recovery program cannot come at the cost of the EU legal order and Polish democracy.”
United Poland, a junior partner in the governing coalition, is opposed to the EU recovery plan, which it says could see predominantly Catholic Poland forced to accept liberal policies like gay marriage and become saddled with debt.
The party reiterated its opposition to the recovery fund in a statement on Tuesday, but said it remained committed to the coalition, which shared a “common vision of the fatherland” despite its differences.
A meeting between the government and the Left parliamentary bloc yielded agreement on the latter’s proposals on how funds should be spent, including building 75,000 flats in Poland for rent, investing in hospitals and supporting sectors worst affected by the pandemic.
Opposition parties have been split on whether to give the divided government the votes it needs to pass the legislation, with some insisting the issue should be used to bring about early elections.
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