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Polish PM hails ‘difficult compromise’ as MPs back bid to unblock EU funds

13.01.2023 15:15
Poland’s prime minister has praised lawmakers for approving a key judicial reform bill that could help the country access billions in European Union funds, saying that his governing conservatives must "end the dispute in the West because the real enemy is in the East.”
Polands Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks to reporters in parliament on Friday, January 13, 2023.
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks to reporters in parliament on Friday, January 13, 2023.PAP/Piotr Nowak

Mateusz Morawiecki made the remark at a briefing in parliament on Friday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

The prime minister said: “This judicial bill represents a difficult compromise; it is designed to end the disputewith the European Commission over the rule of law.

'We must end the dispute in the West because the real enemy is in the East'

Morawiecki added: “We must end the dispute in the West because the real enemy, the real opponent, is in the East and I believe all Poles are perfectly aware of this.”  

He went on to say: “At a time when a fight is under way for the security of Polish borders, for our sovereignty, we must attract to Poland all the resources that we can, for the purposes of growth, as well as to raise the salaries of Polish employees, to stabilise the Polish economy, to calm the financial markets.”

Brussels welcomes adoption of judicial bill by Polish lower house

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the European Commission, Christian Wigand, said that the adoption of the bill by Polish MPs was an "important step" towards Poland's complying with its commitments, the PAP news agency reported.

He added that the EU executive would monitor further progress of the bill through parliament, until its signing into law by President Andrzej Duda, according to the PAP news agency.

“It will be important that the final law as adopted raises the standards on judicial protection and judicial independence,” Wigand also said, as quoted by the Bloomberg news agency.

Billions of euros at stake

The judicial reform bill could help unblock billions of euros in European Union funds withheld in a continuing row between Warsaw and Brussels over the rule of law in Poland, news agencies reported.

At stake is at least EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 11.5 billion in loans from the EU’s pandemic relief fund under Poland’s National Recovery Plan, officials said. 

On Friday, the bill was adopted by the Polish lower house thanks to votes from a majority of MPs from the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, with most of the opposition abstaining. 

The junior government coalition partner, United Poland, voted against the bill, saying the measure undermined Polish sovereignty, the Reuters news agency reported.

Under the bill, Poland's Supreme Administrative Court would deal with disciplinary cases of judges instead of a contested chamber within the Supreme Court.

Moreover, judges would not face disciplinary action for questioning the independence of colleagues appointed by bodies that critics say are politicised, Reuters reported.

What’s next?

The legislation now heads to the Senate, the upper house, where the opposition enjoys a slender majority, the PAP news agency reported.

Opposition parties said the Senate would reinstate amendments to the bill that were rejected in the Sejm, the lower house, but those can then be defeated again by ruling party MPs in the lower house, according to Reuters.

The bill also requires the signature of the president to become law.

President Andrzej Duda has said he will not accept any regulation that would allow “the legitimacy of judges to be called into question,” the Reuters news agency reported.

The head of state may sign the bill into law, veto the legislation or send it to the Constitutional Tribunal for review, news outlets noted.​ 

Junior coalition partner vows to “take all possible steps” to block new bill

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who leads the United Poland party, said on Friday: “We’ll take all possible steps to block the new judicial bill.”

Speaking to reporters in parliament, Ziobro added: “Policies based on blackmail from Brussels or Berlin must end badly for Poland and the Polish people.”


Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters, Bloomberg, rp.pl

Click on the audio player above for a report by Radio Poland's Michał Owczarek.