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POLAND: Brussels' recommendations rejected

Yesterday, the Polish Press Agency (PAP) informed that Morawiecki’s government has prepared an official reply to the EU Commission, regarding its rule of law recommendation. These have been issued in December 2017, and if met, would have satisfied the EU. The Polish government rejected the EU’s allegations and the recommendations. However, it has declared its cooperation in the joint assessment of the Polish judicial system. Frans Timmermans informed that the issue was a key discussion point during talks with EU affairs ministers. Following the talks, Timmermans told reporters that “there was agreement across the table that the [Polish] white paper is not the answer to the Commission’s recommendations”.

The government’s decision does not come as a surprise. Throughout the dispute with the EU, the PiS ruling party remained adamant about its judiciary reforms. On Monday, Angela Merkel’s visit to Warsaw was deemed a success and breakthrough in Polish-German relations, but this enthusiasm faded after yesterday’s announcements. The German EU Affairs Minister Michael Roth criticised Poland, suggesting that actions are expected from the Warsaw, and that reiterated explanations will no longer suffice – a viewpoint shared by many in the EU. Bilateral relations with EU member states, however, have to be considered separately to those within EU institutions.

Though many EU states share a common position on Poland’s judiciary, they are unlikely to let it jeopardise their particular interests. PM Morawiecki, so far, failed to persuade the EU of the government’s intentions. On the surface, the reshuffled PiS government has managed to mend some strained relations with Brussels, however, the situation has already developed, making these actions inefficient. All diplomatic channels in the EU are now likely to focus on preventing rule of law adherence to be tied to EU funding, which could cost Poland billions of euros. This situation is also tricky for the opposition parties in Poland; they are aware that supporting the Commission in limiting funding will be disastrous for them in domestic politics.