The EU’s budget commissioner says that Brussels “will find ways to help Poland” now that Donald Tusk has become prime minister, including by unblocking billions of euros in funds frozen due to rule-of-law concerns under the previous Law and Justice (PiS) government.
After being sworn in as prime minister yesterday, Tusk is currently in Brussels for a two-day European Council summit. He declared that unfreezing Poland’s funds would be top of his agenda, and that there is a “90% chance” he would be able to say tomorrow that he had secured the money.
Donald Tusk zapowiada przełom w sprawie odblokowania unijnych pieniędzy dla Polski. – Powiedziałbym: na 90 procent uda się ten proces przyspieszyć na tyle, że będę mógł w piątek wam powiedzieć: „mamy to”, mówił polski premier w Brukseli.
— Radio ZET NEWS (@RadioZET_NEWS) December 13, 2023
In an interview with Reuters yesterday, the budget commissioner, Johannes Hahn, said that “we have a lot of expectations and we will certainly support him [Tusk] in his efforts”.
“We’re not talking about an immediate transfer of billions – it’s more about de-blocking of funds,” he added. “I’m sure that we will find ways to help Poland. We don’t have any doubts that they are moving so to say in the right rule-of-law direction.”
“How this can be done is beyond my current knowledge,” said Hahn, referring to restoring rule of law in Poland. “But we certainly will not wait one and a half years, so I think there must be a kind of solution.”
Exclusive: EU to find way to help Poland access frozen EU cash -Hahn https://t.co/cIwGY6OG6C pic.twitter.com/Hgo9NsOHdO
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 13, 2023
Around €111 billion in funds for Poland – from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery facility and cohesion funds – has been frozen due to concerns over the rule of law, notes Reuters.
The PiS government, which left office this week after eight years in power, in 2022 agreed a series of “milestones” with Brussels in order to unlock the funds. But, despite introducing a number of measures designed to meet those demands, the EU has so far deemed progress not to be sufficient.
PiS, however, argued that Brussels was withholding the money for political reasons, including that it wanted to use the issue to help Tusk and the opposition come to power, after which it would unfreeze the funds.
After his coalition won a majority in October’s parliamentary elections – but before they were able to form a new government this week – Tusk flew to Brussels to meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and discuss ways to unblock the funds.
Afterwards, he said that concrete steps to restore the rule of law must be taken before the EU releases Poland’s frozen funds https://t.co/Vhl56kZL3x
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 25, 2023
On his arrival in Brussels today, now officially sworn in as prime minister, Tusk announced that “Poland is again a country governed by law”, reports the Polish Press Agency (PAP).
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it seems we are already on the final stretch [of unlocking the funds],” he said. “I would say there is a 90% chance that this process will be accelerated enough that I will be able to tell you on Friday: ‘We have it.’”
However, Tusk acknowledged that much will depend on President Andrzej Duda, who has the power to veto bills passed by the government’s majority in parliament. Duda is a PiS ally who was closely involved in the previous government’s judicial reforms.
Poland’s new government is a diverse coalition ranging from left to centre-right and contains a mix of big names and new faces, including some from outside politics.
Read our profile of every minister and some of the challenges each will face ⬇️ https://t.co/J1xfrmHHdj
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 13, 2023
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Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.