Chief Ursula von der Leyen, who is in the United States for the United Nations General Assembly, answered questions from Princeton University students and lecturers on Thursday evening (22/09/2022). The topic of the rule of law and the Polish National Reconstruction Plan appeared there (). Von der Leyen explained that the KPO is a type of agreement between the European Commission and the Polish government (signed in June), which also includes the conditions of the rule of law.
“But what I feared is happening.” The Polish government does not want to change the laws in the way we set out in our agreement to restore the independence of the judiciary. And that is why we cannot and will not withdraw any money – declared von der Leyen.
The head of the European Commission admits that the suspension of the KPO creates a politically difficult situation, because the Polish government spreads the narrative that “Eurocrats from Brussels do not want to give us the money we deserve, because we help refugees from Ukraine so much”. – It’s a mixture of two things that have nothing to do with each other. It is amazing how Poles opened their hearts and their homes to refugees. Fantastic Polish hospitality! But this is separate from the agreement we have with the government that we will only pay out when it carries out the reforms we agreed to, von der Leyen explained.
The Polish KPO is EUR 22.5 billion in subsidies and EUR 12.1 billion in cheap loans, and the government may apply to Brussels for the remaining 22 billion loans to which it is entitled to Brussels no later than in 2023. When Brussels approved the Polish KPO, it was estimated that Poland – after meeting milestones and other conditions – could receive around EUR 2.8 billion in subsidies already in the third quarter of this year, and EUR 3 billion and EUR 2 billion in the first and third quarter of 2023, respectively. year. However, any disbursements from the KPO are blocked by the rule of law “milestones”.
Already at the beginning of July, Von der Leyen publicly indicated that the judicial “Duda’s Act”, as the reform proposed by the Polish president in Brussels is called, does not solve the problem with the EU test of judge’s independence, which is a requirement of the Polish KPO. In fact, the presidential draft just before the parliamentary votes contained solutions that the European Commission could swallow. However, they were removed as part of a compromise between the president, representatives and the center of Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who played hard to water down the law.
Poland is not giving up KPO, although some PiS politicians want it
This week, the European Commission signed a KPO financial agreement with the government, which will complement the EU Council’s June decision (EU governments) approving the Polish National Reconstruction Plan. In addition, officials from the European Commission and Poland are still working on several hundred-page “operational arrangements”. determine the technical method of verifying the achievement of the goals set out in the KPO.
For Brussels, all this is a clear confirmation that Warsaw is “not withdrawing from the Reconstruction Fund”, although this is publicly demanded by some prominent PiS politicians. However, neither the financial agreement nor the operational arrangements with Poland represent any progress in achieving the rule of law with the KPO.
On the other hand, the June approval of the KPO by the EU Council (supplemented by a financial agreement) allows Poland to incur legal financial obligations (“programming”) under the KPO. As a result, Warsaw is in a better position than Hungary without an approved KPO, as much as 70 percent. money must be programmed by the end of this year or else it will be lost. Currently, Poland is not threatened with this, although payments for the implementation of programmed reforms and investments will be made only after this implementation is verified by Brussels – by 2026 at the latest.
What about cohesion policy? The European Commission wants guarantees regarding the KPO
The Polish government is now also negotiating with Brussels to approve cohesion policy programs. KPO is part of the total pool of around EUR 130 billion of subsidies for Poland in the EU’s seven-year budget (2021-2027). At the end of June – with a delay, but within the standard framework – agreed with Brussels a “partnership agreement” necessary to spend the largest part of subsidies, i.e. EUR 76.5 billion from the cohesion policy fund, but now the negotiations have gone down to the level of specific programs for Poland .
The rules of the current seven-year EU budget for the first time so unambiguously require that all spending from the common coffers of the Union is in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. That is why the European Commission wants Polish programs under the cohesion policy to include some form of guarantee that EU funds, e.g. in the future, they will not be exposed to financing investments in “LGBT + free zones”.