European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen faced a potential rebuke from MEPs Monday after she approved Poland’s COVID recovery plan despite concerns over Warsaw’s compliance with the rule of law.
The commission, the EU’s executive arm, last week approved Poland’s €35.4 billion stimulus package, which had been held up for more than a year over concerns about judicial independence.
A trio of centrist MEPs, including former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, said Monday they would draw up a motion of censure.
If their letter is backed by 10% of MEPs, the motion would be put to parliament if any recovery cash is sent Warsaw’s way before it implements orders from the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ).
Parliamentary sources said it will probably get the backing needed from the body’s 705 members.
But to pass the motion itself that would target the European Commission, the rebels would need to meet a high bar of a two-thirds majority.
“The Polish government must comply fully and permanently with all ECJ rulings and it must acknowledge the primacy of EU law,” MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld said in a statement.
“As long as these criteria have not been met, the European Commission should not make any payment,” she added.
A hot-tempered debate about Poland’s plan would be an embarrassment to the European Commission, especially at a time when the EU is seeking to display unity in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In announcing the recovery plan, von der Leyen last week insisted Poland will only receive the money if it passes measures that would blunt the impact of one of the main points of contention, a “disciplinary chamber” for judges that has been rejected by the ECJ.
In October, the court hit Poland with daily fines of €1 million for refusing to suspend the disciplinary chamber, which is seen by critics as a method to pressure independent judges.
The fines now amount to more than €200 million.
In order to meet the recovery plan’s conditions, Poland says it is ready for judges’ disciplinary cases to be heard by a court that is compliant with EU law.
It also agrees judges already subject to its disciplinary chamber rulings must have the right to have the decision reviewed by an EU-compliant court “without delay”.
“The commission is fully aware that the remedies announced by the Polish authorities are purely cosmetic,” Verhofstadt wrote in a letter to MEPs in his political group, seen by AFP.