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Brussels and Warsaw in new tussle over recovery fund as Poland threatens 'an eye for an eye'

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By Alice Tidey
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland's ruling party and then-deputy prime minister in Warsaw, Feb. 22, 2022.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland's ruling party and then-deputy prime minister in Warsaw, Feb. 22, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

Poland has not yet fulfilled the requirements it agreed upon in order to unlock some €35 billion in EU recovery funds, the European Commission reiterated on Tuesday after the country's most powerful politician Jarosław Kaczyński accused Brussels of not respecting their deal and threatened to no longer adhere to its "obligations". 

Asked about Kaczyński's comments during a regular press briefing on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Commission stressed that although EU leaders approved Poland's Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) at their last Council summit in June, there were some strings attached in order for the funds to be disbursed.

The Commission demanded that Warsaw amend its legislation regarding a new disciplinary regime for judges deemed not compatible with EU law by the European Court of Justice before it proceeds with the payments of post-COVID recovery funds.

This is because it leaves Polish judges vulnerable to punishment on the basis of their rulings, which would undermine their independence and leave them vulnerable to political control.

Arianna Podestà, a Commission spokesperson, said that while the new law presented by the government "is an important step", their "preliminary assessment is that it does not ensure for the judges to question the status of another judge without risking being subject to disciplinary offence."

"We have already shared these observations with Poland in the context of the RRP implementation. It's of course, not a formal assessment of compliance with the milestones, as we are not at that stage of the procedure," she said, adding: "We have no payment request that has been made by Poland in the RRP."

Kaczyński, who was deputy prime minister until he resigned in June but remains leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, claimed however in an interview with the pro-government Sieci news outlet over the weekend, that Poland "have shown maximum goodwill, but concessions have yielded nothing."

"On our part, it was kept, on their part it was broken," he went on. "It’s time to draw conclusions. We had to try if only to make the issue clear. And today it is clear – everyone can see what the game is about."

"Since the European Commission is not fulfilling its obligations to Poland in this area, we have no reason to fulfil our obligations to the European Union," Kaczyński added. 

He accused the EU's executive of attempting "to break Poland and force it into full submission to Germany", arguing that "we do not fit into German-Russian plans to rule Europe" and that "an independent, economically, socially and militarily strong Poland is an obstacle for them."

PiS's general secretary, Krzysztof Sobolewski, meanwhile told Polish radio on Monday that the Commission was trying to "press Poland to the wall".

He warned that Warsaw was prepared to fight "an eye for an eye" and to aim "all our cannons in our arsenal" on the Commission and if needed form a coalition to unseat Ursula von der Leyen as Commission President.