Poland wants to end EC dispute: Financial Times

Poland wants to make progress in its rule-of-law dispute with the European Commission so that the issue does not affect upcoming negotiations on the EU budget after 2020, the UK's Financial Times wrote on Monday.

The British daily pointed out that amendments to Poland's controversial judicial reforms are scheduled for debate in the upper house of Polish parliament on Monday.

The FT wrote: “Senior officials in Brussels, Paris and Berlin, where concerns have grown that the plans undermine the rule of law, are encouraged but wary, seeing the revisions as a first step.”

The newspaper quotes a German official as describing the changes as, “'in the right direction, but largely ‘cosmetic.’” A French official agreed, but went on to note that, “the changes were nonetheless ‘important’ because Warsaw had never before accepted that ‘it had to change something because of Europe.’”

The Financial Times added that “a compromise between Brussels and Warsaw would aim to end the Article 7 procedure.”

“One senior EU official said this would be a 'transformative moment' in bringing Warsaw in from the cold.”

“Significantly, the softer line from Warsaw has the support of Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of Law and Justice who is widely regarded as Poland’s most powerful politician,” the paper continued, asserting that it was Kaczyński who had installed Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in place of his predecessor, Beata Szydło, “who had a fraught relationship with the commission.”

“A big factor driving the reconciliation is EU’s next budget proposal,” the FT commented. “Poland is the budget’s biggest beneficiary and wants the commission to drop plans to link finance to rule of law compliance. Germany and France have strongly supported such terms and Mr Morawiecki does not want the negotiations poisoned by the issue.”

The daily goes on to say that, “Polish officials also see domestic advantages in ending the long-running spat with Brussels. A deal would blunt opposition attacks.”

The FT emphasises that Mr Kaczyński estimates the chances of an end to the dispute at 80 percent, while EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans has said he “was 'encouraged' by talks in Poland last week”.

“This is the first time in Warsaw that we actually went into the concrete discussions where we had a vision and tried and find a way out of the differences,” Mr Timmermans said. “Both sides want a deal before commission proposals on budget 'conditionality' are published in late May,” the FT pointed out.

The British daily concludes by quoting the words of German SPD Bundestag MP Dietmar Nietan, who said the Poles were: “deviating from the hardline position… and that’s real progress”, but added, “I want to see concrete results: Where’s the beef? We will judge them by what they do, not just what they say.”