Donald Tusk, the leader of Poland’s largest opposition party, PO, has pledged that if he wins power in October’s general election he will immediately unblock the European Union’s €35 billion in post-pandemic funds earmarked for the country.
The money has been frozen over concerns about rule-of-law compliance.
Despite an agreement between the European Commission and the Polish Government on a series of reforms, the EC claims several have yet to be implemented, in particular a law designed to change the system for disciplining judges.
On August 27, during an election rally near Gdansk, Tusk said: “There is only one country in the EU which has not received a single Euro from the community’s post-pandemic recovery funds.”
He accused the leader of the ruling Polish PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, of being responsible for the EU withholding the funding.
Tusk pledged he would fix the problem: “I make a solemn promise here: the day after the elections, the day after victory, I will go and unlock the money,” he said.
“A bit of goodwill and a bit of competence will be enough to unlock the Polish money that lies in Brussels.”
Politicians from the PiS said his remarks illustrate how EU institutions are attempting to leverage an opposition victory. They accused Tusk and the EC of colluding over the freezing of the post-pandemic funds and claimed that Tusk’s words prove that the EU is not concerned about the rule of law and is in fact using the issue of frozen funds to help Tusk attain power.
Brussels Signal asked Christian Wigand, a spokesperson for the EC, whether it was possible for the EC to unblock Poland’s post-pandemic funds on the say-so of Donald Tusk. He replied that the EC “does not generally comment on comments”.
He would not be drawn on whether unblocking of cash could be achieved in a day or confirm that for Poland to obtain the post-pandemic funding requires it to meet the milestones agreed between the EC and the present Polish Government. Asked to state that this will not change regardless of who is in office in Poland, the spokesman also refused to comment.
To meet the EC milestones, any incoming government will have to unblock legislation currently held up in the constitutional court packed with the present ruling party’s appointees.