Poland hits out at EU’s ‘foot-stamping bureaucrats’

European Commission agrees to pay out Poland’s share of the Covid “Recovery and Resilience Facility” if Warsaw rolls back controversial judicial reforms

Poland’s 10-week honeymoon with the EU has ended in recrimination, with Warsaw insisting it will not yield to “foot-stamping bureaucrats” in Brussels.

The bone of contention is Poland’s €36 billion share of the Covid “Recovery and Resilience Facility”. The European Commission agreed to pay out in early June provided Warsaw rolled back controversial judicial reforms and addressed rule-of-law concerns.

The money is key to underwriting Poland’s own national recovery plan (KPO), which the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party hopes will boost its re-election hopes next year.

Days after the European Commission expressed concerns that conditions of the payout have not been met, Poland said on Wednesday it would apply to draw down funds in October.


“Poland is pursuing its own interests and will not stray from this path, we will not react to any foot-stamping bureaucrats in Brussels,” said prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki. “Poland will pursue a policy aimed at the best possible securement of our interests.”

After a seven-year standoff over judicial and other government reforms, the June compromise saw Poland promise to abolish a controversial disciplinary chamber for judges. Critics saw the chamber as a tool to threaten and intimidate judges who veered from the government line.

The chamber was abolished in May but critical observers say latest overhauls still leave judges exposed to disciplinary proceedings and the risk of political influence.

The European Commission appears to agree, saying this week that outstanding concerns “need to be addressed in order for the stimulus plan commitments to be met”.

In addition, the commission has moved to the latest stage of infringement proceedings against Poland over a series of rulings from its constitutional court. The highest Polish court, now packed with allies of the ruling party, ruled in October 2021 that parts of the EU treaties were incompatible with Polish national law – a stance that Brussels says is incompatible with EU membership.

In response, Poland insists that courts are not an EU competence and takes issue with what it sees as the EU meddling in its national affairs.

As the Warsaw-Brussels standoff flared up again, Jarosław Kaczyński, head of the PiS and the country’s de facto leader, said Poland would have to consider “rearranging relations with the EU”.

“We do not fit into German-Russian plans to rule Europe,” he said in a magazine interview. “An independent, economically, socially and militarily strong Poland is an obstacle for them.”

Earlier this week European Commission spokeswoman Arianna Podesta said that “no official assessment has yet been made as Poland has not yet issued a payment request”.

On Wednesday Mr Morawiecki said his government was readying its first application for EU funding by early November at the latest. He said the money and loans were “much needed in Poland in the coming years to put Poland’s economic growth on good, healthy foundations”.

“I am convinced that sooner or later those funds will come to Poland,” said Mr Morawiecki.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin