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Ratification of Next Generation EU recovery plan divides Poland

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Poland – Will Poland block the Next Generation EU recovery plan? Will this stalemate bring down the United Right coalition led by Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice (PiS) party? It is not only in Germany that the machine is stuck, after the 750 billion euro European recovery plan was blocked – temporarily? – by Constitutional Court judges in Karlsruhe, who have doubts about the conformity with the European treaties of the common debt to be contracted by the European Commission on behalf of the 27.

For the EU recovery plan to enter into force, it must first be ratified by all 27 national parliaments. In Poland, it is also partly the question of the common debt that is causing dissension between the partners of the government coalition. However, the main problem is the adoption of the famous “rule of law” mechanism, which will make the payment of European funds conditional on respect for the rule of law and European values.

The United Right increasingly disunited

The Polish governing coalition, under the banner of the “United Right”, includes PiS and two small allied parties whose deputies were elected on PiS’ lists and sit in the PiS group in the Sejm: Solidarna Polska (United Poland), led by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, and Porozumienie (Agreement), under Development, Labor and Technology Minister Jarosław Gowin. As the PiS group’s majority in the Sejm is only a few seats, the defection of one of these two parties would be enough for it to lose its absolute majority. At the same time, since the spring of 2020, conflicts have multiplied between PiS and its two allies.

High risk vote for the coalition

The upcoming vote in the Sejm on the law ratifying the Next Generation EU recovery plan is a high risk for this coalition. Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and his Solidarna Polska party have made it clear that they will oppose it. Yet in an interview published on April 7 by the weekly Gazeta Polska, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński said that a PiS defeat due to a no vote or abstention by Solidarna Polska MPs would spell the end of the coalition. Kaczyński has thus given the opposition the key to toppling Mateusz Morawiecki’s government and perhaps provoking early elections, since they now know that all they will need to do is vote en bloc against the recovery plan. Saying this so openly was probably not very clever, since PiS needs the liberals and the left to approve this stimulus package.

Prime Minister Morawiecki’s betrayal

In a radio interview on April 12, the justice minister once again explained the root of the problem: at the European Councils of July and December 2020, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accepted the mechanism making EU funds conditional on the European Commission’s assessment of compliance with the rule of law and European values. Ziobro and his party insisted on the need to block such a mechanism, which is contrary to the European treaties and which will lead to the European Commission being given an extremely powerful instrument of blackmail which it is feared will be used for political and ideological purposes.

“The Prime Minister had told the Sejm that he would veto it. But in the end he accepted the dictate of Brussels and Berlin,” Ziobro said. For Ziobro, Morawiecki has betrayed the promises made to voters of the United Right by accepting a major transfer of sovereignty to the European institutions. Ziobro also points to the risk that Polish taxpayers will one day have to pay back the debts of the Greeks, due to the part of the Next Generation EU recovery plan that will be financed with European debt titles.

Ziobro convinced that conditionality mechanism will be used to bend Poland

In an interview published in the weekly Sieci on March 22, the justice minister said that he did not believe for a moment that the political declaration obtained by the Polish and Hungarian Prime Ministers at the December European Council concerning the application of the new mechanism would be effective in limiting its exploitation for ideological purposes, in order to impose on Poland the model of society desired by the left for the whole of the EU. In this regard, he cited statements to this effect by European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová, who has promised to use this mechanism to enforce “LGBT rights”.

Three days after the interview was published, the European Parliament adopted a resolution threatening the Commission with action before the European Court of Justice if this mechanism was not implemented immediately, without waiting for the outcome of the referral to the ECJ by Poland and Hungary as per the political declaration of the December European Council. Not long before, on March 11, the European Parliament had declared, by means of a resolution in which Poland was the main accused, that the whole of the EU was now an “LGBTIQ freedom zone”.

Kaczyński’s economic gamble

In the interview published in Gazeta Polska on April 7, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński says, however, that it would be a very serious mistake not to ratify the recovery plan, as the funds earmarked for Poland are essential to continue catching up economically with the richest countries in the bloc, which, according to Kaczyński, is a prerequisite for being able to effectively defend Poland’s sovereignty and identity.

Provided, of course, that the payment of these funds is not suspended, as foreseen by Ziobro, to force Poland to give up its sovereignty and identity before it can acquire the economic power Kaczyński expects.