In one of his first decisions as the new justice minister and prosecutor general, Adam Bodnar has launched the process for Poland to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). He also reintroduced EU flags to the justice ministry, which had disappeared under the previous eurosceptic administration.
Bodnar, who was sworn in yesterday along with the rest of the new government, also held a call with European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová, who welcomed the new minister’s “significant change in approach to cooperation at the European level”.
However, his actions were criticised by his predecessor as justice minister, who said that the EPPO’s aim is to “police the EU’s left-wing agenda”.
Just in: New Minister of Justice, @Adbodnar, wastes no time in making bold moves. First up, a formal request to PM Tusk to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Additionally, the EU flag is back in the minister’s office. https://t.co/nfosQbJEFm
— Rule of Law in Poland (@RULEOFLAWpl) December 13, 2023
The EPPO was established in 2021 and is tasked with investigating and prosecuting crimes against the financial interests of the EU, such as fraud and corruption. All EU member countries except Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Hungary and Poland have joined the institution.
Poland’s previous Law and Justice (PiS) government, which was removed from office this week, argued that EU countries already have a sufficiently developed system of international cooperation in criminal cases and that joining the EPPO was therefore unnecessary.
The national-conservative PiS was sceptical towards deeper European integration, and also repeatedly clashed with Brussels over a range of issues, in particular the rule of law.
The new government, led by former European Council President Donald Tusk, has pledged to mend relations with Brussels and cooperate more closely with European partners.
The EU’s budget commissioner says they „will find ways to help Poland” now that @donaldtusk has become prime minister, including by unblocking billions of euros in funds frozen over rule-of-law concerns under the previous government https://t.co/tceexNc8wb
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 14, 2023
Yesterday, Bodnar submitted a request to Tusk for the latter to initiate the process of joining the EPPO. That will involve first obtaining the opinion of relevant parliamentary committees before referring the application to the European Commission and Council of the European Union.
“The participation of Polish prosecutors in the work of the EPPO will allow for more effective prosecution of crimes against the financial interests of the EU and member states, including Poland,” wrote Bodnar. “[It also] will result in better cooperation between the justice systems of Poland and EU countries.”
Bodnar’s request was welcomed by Jourová. The “EU needs strong Poland at its centre”, she wrote. “I am looking forward to working together to strengthen the independence of [the] judiciary in Poland and address remaining rule-of-law related concerns.”
I welcome 🇵🇱’s intention to join European Prosecutors’ Office immediately. This is an important change in approach to cooperation at 🇪🇺 level on judicial matters. pic.twitter.com/OYmZT4iADg
— Věra Jourová (@VeraJourova) December 13, 2023
Bodnar’s decision was, however, criticised by his predecessor, Marcin Warchoł, who is part of Sovereign Poland (Suwerenna Polska), a hardline eurosceptic party that from 2015 to 2023 was a junior coalition partner to PiS.
“The real purpose of the EPPO will, unfortunately, be to police the EU’s left-wing agenda and – under the banner of combating hate speech – to combat those who defend life or traditional Christian values,” wrote Warchoł.
Meanwhile, former deputy justice minister Sebastian Kaleta, also from Sovereign Poland, called Bodnar’s decision an “homage” to Brussels.
“Never mind that we would have avoided unnecessary EU bureaucracy without it. Never mind that Poland has dealt with the VAT mafias on its own and is an example to many countries,” Kaleta wrote. “For the new justice minister, the only thing that matters is pleasing Brussels.”
Adam Bodnar już składa hołd lenny Brukseli, wpisując Polskę do Prokuratury Europejskiej.
Nieważne, że bez tego uniknęlibyśmy zbędnej unijnej biurokracji.
Nieważne, że Polska sama poradziła sobie z mafiami VATowskimi i dla wielu państw jest przykładem.
Dla nowego ministra… pic.twitter.com/vwi9AHFN6B
— Sebastian Kaleta (@sjkaleta) December 14, 2023
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Main image credit: SLAWOMIR KAMINSKI / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.