EU funds might be frozen, warns opposition

On Monday the European Commission first Vice-President Frans Timmermans held a number of meetings with Polish politicians. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

The opposition leaders implied on Monday that their victory in the 2019 parliamentary elections would secure Poland’s EU funds that may be frozen under the rule of the current government.

On Monday the European Commission first Vice-President Frans Timmermans held a number of meetings with Polish politicians. In the early afternoon Mr Timmermans met with the President of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal Julia Przyłębska. The Constitutional Tribunal is the constitutional court established to resolve disputes on the constitutionality of the activities of state institutions and supervise the compliance of statutory law with the Polish constitution.

Mr Timmermans also spoke with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz.

“Today is the moment when we clarify in great detail all the positions we have,” Mr Timmermans said at a press conference. “We’ve expressed our conditions, Polish government reacted to that and it was good today to have a full discussion of these issues,” he continued. Mr Timmermans also expressed his satisfaction with Polish side’s “openness to dialogue.”

Poland is ready to dispel European Commission's doubts related to the country's judiciary reforms but will not agree to limiting its rights to shape the national justice system, said Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymański, who is responsible for EU affairs.

The meeting resonated on the local political scene as opposition referred to the ongoing EU budget distribution dispute that has been a hot-button in recent weeks.

Leader of Poland’s main opposition party Civic Platform (PO) Grzegorz Schetyna said in an interview to the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita that “money for Poland from budget (2021-2017) is most likely going to be frozen due to the violation of the rule of law. After 2019 parliamentary elections, we will return and will unfreeze the EU funds for Poland.”

A similar statement was made by PO’s Warsaw mayoral candidate Rafał Trzaskowski during an interview at the Polish radio station Radio Zet. He said: “Thanks to our efforts EU funds do not get lost, they will be merely frozen. Therefore, once we’ve won the next elections, this money will be unfrozen so Warsaw will capitalize on huge amounts for investments.”

The statements were slammed by the ruling party officials. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party spokeswoman, Beata Mazurek, reacted to Mr Schetyna’s words calling them an “outrageous.”

“Alliance between Civil Platform and the EU officials [against the interests of Poland] is a fact,” she added.

Later on Monday, Mr Trzaskowski posted on Twitter a proposal for an EU Parliament and an EU Council regulation on the protection of the Union's budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States.

The proposal was drafted at the beginning of May and does introduce the procedure suspension of payments in case of breaching the rule of law − for example, when the judiciary system is deemed politicized.

However, the implementation of that proposal still has to to be approved by the majority.