European Parliament calls on EU to freeze funds for rule of law violators

The European Parliament has, by a large majority, adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission to take action to withhold funds from member states that fail to respect the rule of law. The document names Hungary and Poland as particular offenders.

The resolution was condemned by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which unsuccessfully proposed an amendment calling for the rule of law mechanism not to be applied due to the war in Ukraine and the the pandemic. He also called on the EU to immediately release Covid recovery funds that have been blocked for rule of law reasons.

European Court rules EU can freeze funds to the detriment of the rule of law, rejecting appeals from Poland and Hungary

In the resolution adopted today – with 478 votes in favor and 155 against – the European Parliament welcomed the recent decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to reject an attempt by Poland and Hungary to prevent that EU funds are conditional on respect for the rule of law.

The parliament said it was now “high time” for the European Commission to “react to the continued breaches of the rule of law in some EU member states, which constitute a danger to the financial interests of the Union European”.

It asks the Commission to initiate the use of the conditionality mechanism by notifying the Member States concerned in writing. The measures should apply to both the EU’s general budget and the EU’s Covid recovery plan, the parliament said.

Among Polish MEPs, those from The Left (Lewica), Poland’s second largest opposition group, voted in favor of the resolution while those from the Civic Platform (PO), the largest, abstained. PiS MPs voted against.

The PiS has long opposed the conditionality mechanism, saying it would be used for political purposes to punish certain member states. The timing is particularly inappropriate to use it, argues the PiS, given the EU’s need for unity amid the war in Ukraine and the resulting refugee crisis.

“The Russians bombed a maternity ward in Mariupol. Meanwhile, Germany is blocking further sanctions against Russia and the European Parliament is voting in favor of sanctions against Poland,” PiS MP Sylwester Tułajew tweeted.

Yesterday, the European Conservatives and Reformists – a group in which the PiS is the dominant force – tabled an amendment calling for the rule of law mechanism not to be applied due to the war in Ukraine and the pandemic. He also called on the EU to release Covid funds, which have been frozen for Poland due to rule of law concerns.

After the rejection of this amendment, its author, MP PiS Bogdan Rzońca, said that “the left-liberal European Parliament has shown Putin that there is no solidarity within the EU and that it can harass and scare countries bordering Ukraine”, reports TVP Info.

He also accused Polish opposition parties of ‘not wanting the money to go to local authorities [in Poland] who are now helping refugees from Ukraine”.

PO – who voted against the amendment but abstained on the resolution – “agrees that this time of war is not the time for such resolutions”, said MEP Andrzej Halicki, quoted by TVN24. However, he also called on the PiS government to “end the [rule-of-law] dispute as soon as possible” in order to release EU funds.

Robert Biedroń, MEP and one of the leaders of The Left, said his group supported the resolution because “respect for the law, including the right to an independent tribunal that is not influenced by politicians , is a fundamental freedom…[and] the basis of the values ​​for which Ukrainian soldiers are dying today”.

Like Halicki, he also called on the PiS to release the funds by reversing its judicial policies. “In these times, you have to put aside unnecessary political arguments and do the right thing,” Biedroń told PAP. “The interest of 38 million Poles and more than 40 million Ukrainians is greater than the interest of a few politicized judges.”

Polish president proposes abolishing judicial disciplinary chamber to end dispute with EU

Main image credit: KPRP (under public domain)

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