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Polish president says EU freeze on regional aid would be attempt to influence elections

18.10.2022 07:30
The Polish president has said that a move by the European Commission to withhold billions in cohesion funding from Poland would be “an obvious attempt to influence the free nature of elections” in his country.
Andrzej Duda.
Andrzej Duda.PAP/Leszek Szymański

Andrzej Duda made the statement in an interview with state broadcaster TVP Info on Monday.

Poland's Rzeczpospolita newspaper reported on Monday that the European Union’s Brussels-based executive had frozen “practically all the funding for Poland, until we fix the judicial system.”

Asked to comment on these reports, Duda said: “If these media reports are confirmed, it will be clear that European institutions are continuing to meddle in Polish politics and trying to force Polish society to change the government in Poland.”  

‘An obvious attempt to influence elections in Poland’

He added: “I deeply believe that the Polish people don’t like it when someone is trying to force something on them, when it comes to such issues as our liberty, sovereignty and the freedom to choose who is to govern us.”   

Duda went on to say: “If such steps were indeed being taken, then it would be an obvious attempt to influence the free nature of elections in Poland, an another obvious contradiction of democratic principles by representatives of the liberal West, who are full of slogans about democracy, but this democracy is to be such that the elites are in charge, not the people, then they regard it as a democracy.” 

The president said he hoped that reports about the suspension of the EU’s regional catch-up cohesion funds for Poland “are media gossip, attempts at intimidation by the disaffected, frustrated representatives of the various elites of the left-wing and liberal kind.”

EU to freeze cohesion funds for Poland?

According to Rzeczpospolita, Marc Lemaître, who leads the European Commission’s Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy, said last week in Brussels that Poland had declared in its “self-assessment” that it had not yet fulfilled one of the “enabling conditions” for receiving EU cohesion funds, related the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Lemaître added, as cited by the PAP news agency, that "until this condition is fulfilled by Poland, bills sent to Brussels will not be reimbursed. These bills will wait."

This report was echoed by the Financial Times, which cited anonymous Brussels officials as saying that most of Poland’s cohesion funds for the 2021-2027 period, worth some EUR 76.5 billion, “are for now inaccessible.” 

Meanwhile, Poland is still able to draw down the cohesion funds from the 2014-2020 budget period, the Financial Times reported.

According to the FT, the likely freeze on payments for Poland is due to a lack of agreement between Warsaw and Brussels on Polish judicial reforms. 

According to some EU diplomats and officials, “political progress in the discussions over judicial independence remains slow,” the FT reported.

Reports that EU funds have been frozen are ‘untrue’: gov’t spokesman 

Meanwhile, Piotr Müller, the spokesman for the Polish government, told reporters on Monday that, according to the EU’s Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, “in Poland’s case, a sufficiently direct connection between judiciary problems and the correct spending of EU funds has not been observed.”

“This is the official stance of the European Union, the European Commission, with regard to the budget,” Müller said.

“Today’s claim by one of the newspapers that such a decision [to block cohesion funding for Poland] has been made, is untrue,” he added.   


Source: PAP, euractiv.pl, ft.com